Shun Mode

For older singles, finding a suitable mate is difficult. When someone desirable comes along, it's natural to try to impress her or him. But what should a single do if the response is lukewarm?

Jeff said: "I've been out with a woman four times who lives an hour away. Each time we've had lots of fun. However, when I ask her to get together again, she says she'll have to check her calendar and she's usually available in about two weeks.

"I've told her that it doesn't have to be an event for me to travel an hour each way to see her. I know women need time and patience but it will be hard for us to find out much about each other if it's only every two weeks."

When the woman said no to a date during the Memorial Day weekend, Jeff asked if she wanted to see him again, or if she was gently trying to let him go.

"She said she likes being with me but she needs alone time in between her other plans. If you like someone you make time. Should I move on or wait it out?" Jeff asked.

"Do neither," I answered. "She has reasons that are important enough to her to not free up more time for you, at least not yet. And, of course, one of the reasons could be another man. Or perhaps she simply wants to go slow with you. She's independent and treasures her alone time, and is honest, desirable qualities to have.

Jeff shouldn't "move on" yet. He gave her the window of opportunity to dump him and she didn't. So, there could be hope for a relationship, but he's got to handle the situation properly.

And yet, Jeff shouldn't "wait it out" either. The woman knows he cares about her; he doesn't have to tell her that again. But why drive two hours to see a woman who has him so low on the priority list?

I hate romance-related games among older singles. In some cases what to do falls under the "common sense" category. In Jeff's case, I suggest he follow common sense by implementing Shun Mode, a can't-lose dating strategy used by teens and young adults.

He needs to be less available to her. He should stop calling. One of two things will happen. Either, she'll notice that Jeff has lost interest and if he matters to her, she'll call and suggest they get together. He can't lose if that happens. Perhaps, she'll even offer to drive to see him.

Or, she won't care that he's faded away. He won't hear from her. If that's the case, he'll understand she is not the woman for him, that pursuing her is pointless. Again he wins, he'll be unshackled to find somebody else.

Under Shun Mode, if Jeff hasn't heard from her in three weeks, he may phone for a friendly chat, and see what she says. If she shows interest, he can ask her out again. If she doesn't, it underscores what he already suspected about her feelings toward him.

I don't like games for older singles. But, sometimes they have to be played. We've got such little time to waste.

Reader Comments

Denise, "My unofficial survey is giving me hope about getting out there again and possibly meeting someone special. I work in the medical field. My patient base is mainly over 45. I survey patients whose names have changed in the last year or so. Many more times than not, they have found love after 50. It is through friends and online which seem to rank the highest now for meeting new mates."

Response: We hear lots of disappointing stories like the one described today. But, yes, folks still meet and get married. I met my partner 8 years ago in my deli, so you never know where it might happen. We don't plan to marry, but feel we'll be together for ever."

A woman friend, age 48, is getting married this week-end for the first time. There's hope for everyone.

Bill, "When does my newsletter subscription expire?"

Response: I notify readers in a separate email during the month their subscriptions expire. You can click on the newsletter renewal link below and I will automatically extend you for another 12 months, beyond your renewal date, so renewing early at a lower price is guaranteed.

Comment from Tom: Some subscribers have inadvertently unsubscribed themselves. They ask me to reinstate them but as a safety precaution, the list service company I use won't allow that as a security precaution. There is a way to assist them to get them back on the list, but I have to provide them with a link to do so and that takes a little time. Hence, I'd suggest only unsubscribing if you have no intention of continuing.


Singles know that finding a compatible mate later in life is difficult. So when someone comes along who is perfect for us, we feel blessed. Take Joyce for example. She shared the many reasons why she likes the man she met online in January, 2005.

“We enjoy each other’s company, make each other laugh and support each other. He’s a great listener, always available, calls when he says he’s going to, invites my kids along each time we go out and even sent flowers (once).

“We travel weekends, bike ride, watch our local professional baseball and football teams, visit his mom and my parents, go to movies, play computer games, and do errands together.”

Joyce and her boyfriend don’t live together, but in April, when he had back surgery, he stayed at her home for three weeks so she could look after him.

Sounds like the type of relationship we’d all like to have. Well, maybe he could send flowers a little more often, but some guys are that way. So why is Joyce questioning the relationship?

Because there’s more to the story. Joyce said, “We hit a bump in the road early on. Last June, he accepted a wedding invite to go as a guest with a previous girlfriend—says he felt bad for her and didn’t want to go alone. It put my antennae up. He never answers his cell phone when he’s with me. I started checking his cell phone on the sly.”

Joyce says she got “really, really, really” chewed up by members of her chat room for doing that. “But I had the opportunity and was protecting myself,” she said. Joyce found out he was keeping in touch with the woman he took to the wedding, although he told Joyce he wasn’t, and there were three other women he was in contact with, one every day.

She said she also discovered another bump in the road: he enjoyed recreational drug use, even sold pot to friends. She broke up with him over that. When he promised he’d give that up for her, they reunited.

Now she finds out he still smokes pot and still provides it to his friends. And when he was staying with her while recuperating, late one night she had to run an errand. When she left, he was groggy from his medication, “in a stupor,” she says. When she got back, she checked his cell phone and found that five minutes after she’d left, he’d called one of the four women. Amazing what humans can do in a stupor.

Joyce says she longs for honesty from him. But she hasn’t confronted him again about his drug shenanigans or his contacting other women. “I don’t want more empty promises. He doesn’t take no for an answer easily. If I back off from seeing him, if I’m busy, eventually he will get it and leave me alone.” How’s that for tackling a problem head on?

Joyce has an appointment with her counselor to find out why she can’t stick up for herself. If she thought the members of her chat room were tough on her before, wait until they get her latest update. Let’s hope the counselor can help her.

Reader Comments

Jeff: "It seems that divorced women like to fill their time. I'm a 57-year-old widower and several divorced women I have dated are very busy. They seem to have an obsession about not being free. What am I missing?"

Response: Women who fill their time love life. They want to gulp in every minute and this is so encouraging. Compliment them for being involved. If you are as involved and interesting, one of those busy women may just find a little more time for you.

Bill, "So what's wrong with dating a younger woman? She loves me for who I am and not for the size of my wallet."

Response: Right Bill, dream on. I hope someday, before your life has passed you by, you'll realize that dating a woman close to your age makes much much sense.

Passion Fading

A 65-year-old widower from California is concerned that his romance of two years is fading away. He asked that I not use his real name; we’ll call him Bob.

Bob’s wife died in December, 2003. “About five months after her passing, I asked a long-time family friend and great friend of my wife’s out to lunch. That evolved into a relationship,” Bob said.

He mentioned that his girlfriend is a great companion who hasn’t been intimidated by pictures (3 small ones around the house) and stories of his wife, and that she has told her family members that she adores him and is happy because he treats her well. She even told him that’s he’s the type of person she’d been seeking for 20 years. And she’s told him that she talks spiritually to his deceased wife to tell her she’s taking good care of Bob.

Bob says she’s self-sufficient, that she’s dated only one man briefly since her divorce in 1983. “She’s enjoyed having a man and companion in her life again. We’ve had a lot of fun: Hawaii, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Tahoe and Vegas several times and many nice weekends together.”

But Bob is concerned: “Something has changed over the past several months. Our relationship seems to have lost the spark. I began noticing last Fall I wasn’t so important in her life anymore.

“She isn’t seeing anyone else, but, instead of being here with me on Friday and Saturday nights, it’s more often only one night. We used to have dinner in the middle of the week, but seldom do that any more.”

Bob mentioned his concern to her in November: “She said she was shocked; she thought everything was fine between us.” Yet, he doesn’t understand why she’s spending less time with him. Since New Year’s, their time together has been what he calls “piecemeal.”

Bob added, “She stayed over last Saturday night and by the time we went to bed, a little hugging and squeezing was all that was going on, we were tired. I’ve been known to be amorous in the morning, but she was sleeping so soundly, I figured she needed the rest and just got up and made coffee.

“I mentioned to her later that we needed to get some intimacy back in our life and she agreed that it had been quite some time. That’s part of my dilemma, I want/need/desire her to desire me too, for her to be aggressive once in a while. Don’t I bring that out in her or doesn’t she have it? And she’s planning trips together in the Fall, etc.

“Our relationship is drifting toward a platonic level. She doesn’t have any passion toward our romance and I have become physically turned off. We’re just losing the spark.”

Bob added, “I care for this woman, but I want someone special in my life, not someone on the periphery. I’m looking for more than what our relationship is becoming.”

Bob’s story brings to mind the song “Smoke Rings in the Dark” by country singer Gary Allen, in which Allen sings, “The flame that burned has somehow turned to smoke rings in the dark.” Allen decides he must be going because “love’s already gone.”

Why has Bob’s relationship turned to smoke rings in the dark? It could be for any number of reasons. He needs to evaluate if he’s causing her to lose interest.

I asked Bob if she always visited him and he didn’t go to her place. He said he visits her, but she seems happier and more comfortable at his house. “I cook for her, take her to dinner, have dinner delivered. She has cooked for me only once.”

Bob is perplexed, “We’re good together 99% of the time, but she is satisfied seeing me less than I’ve ever experienced in past relationships. Passion seems to be on the low end of scale. I don’t want to be sliding into that mindset. I’m beginning to think I miss the passion I had with my wife.

If Bob tries, but finds the flame is gone, she may be bored and likely prefers being on her own. If that’s the case, it might be time for him to move on. But he shouldn’t until he’s taken his best shot. I hope our readers will shed some light on Bob’s situation.

Love after 50 or 60 needs as much attention and excitement—maybe more—as love in the earlier years. The mutual sparks still need to fly.

Reader Comments

Anne wrote: "After months of one-time coffee dates with men found on Yahoo! personals, I found the man I was looking for. Jim and I were married on May 20. We had our first cup of coffee together 11 months ago and we've been living together since late November. We have a comfortable relationship but also a lot of passion. We lived 65 miles apart and never would have met if we hadn't looked online."

Response: Anyone who drives 65 miles for a cup of coffee deserves to find romance. Thanks for reminding us to look beyond the city limits.

C, Honolulu, "I got a positive response to a personal ad. We made a date for Wednesday evening. He said he'd call me with the details before I left for work. No call so I figured a no-go. When I got home, he had left two calls. The first asked if we were still on. The second made comments about not responding to his first call (hello, I'm at work all day) and then made a derogatory comment about my answering machine.

"I called him but he didn't return my call. Is it too much to ask for respect for my time?"

Response: I'd look at it this way. He acted like a jerk and likely is, so just say "Next."

Lava Lamp Love Lounge

Compatibility can come in strange packages. Perhaps with someone who has a similar background or interest, attended the same high school, shares a love of opera, travel, growing orchids or gardening. And it may be the Internet that brings you together.

When I first heard Gloria’s story, I thought it was going to be one of those I-can’t-find-any-decent-men-to-date tales women share from all areas of the country.

Living near St. Louis, Mo., Gloria, 55, spent two years on a major Internet matching service. “I had pretty much given up finding anyone online. When I did meet someone in person, it seemed we had absolutely nothing in common,” Gloria said.

She had seen the photo of a man named Ed online, had even read his bio. “Though he was appealing, I never dreamed of writing to him; he lived too far away (an hour’s drive).” To Gloria’s surprise, Ed contacted her.

“We corresponded online and talked on the telephone. When it came time to meet, I balked, actually canceling two dates with him. Upon realizing that he was like me—a former flower child—I decided not to meet him at all.”

Gloria explained to Ed via email why she was reluctant to meet: Former hippies brought back too many bad memories of a drug-dealing, physically abusive, hippie husband, who had made her life miserable 30 years before.

Ed piqued her interest by reciting words from the song, Aqualung, a tune, Gloria suggests, “Any self-respecting former hippie should remember.”

Note from Tom: I’m a 50s and 60s oldies expert, but must admit, hadn’t heard of that song, so I checked to see how Google described it: “The opening blast of ‘Aqualung’ is quintessential Jethro Tull; the guitar solo on that song ranks among rock's greatest.”

Gloria and Ed had so much fun reciting back and forth lines from Aqualung that she decided to meet him, and this time didn’t cancel. That was 7 ½ months ago and now they are happier than a couple attending a Haight-Ashbury, flower-power reunion. Ed is a “R.E.” (retired English professor) and Gloria an “E.R.” (still-working Emergency Room nurse).

Living an hour apart doesn’t stop them from seeing each other nearly every day. They plan to move-in together in August in a little house in the country, which Ed is rehabbing for them. “We are two old hippies and have aptly dubbed our place, ‘The Lava Lamp Love Lounge.’”

Gloria says, “I have never met a man who treats me so well, or that I love so much. I’m blessed to have found someone who makes me laugh out loud often, who sees humor in so many situations in our lives. We’ve been very good for each other. We’re both divorced, both actively involved in our children’s lives. Our past relationships made us feel fragile and somewhat vulnerable. Neither is perfect, but we’re perfect for each other.”

Gloria added, “Tell readers not to give up, and to ‘think outside of the box’ when it comes to finding dating partners. I did give up. Thank God, Ed did not. We are truly blessed. When a couple is meant to be—which I believe is the case with Ed and me—there is no stopping Karma!”

So even if you hung out in San Francisco at the corner of Haight and Ashbury in the mid-1960s, there’s hope. Somewhere there is a person who also hung out in SF, who might be perfect for you. The wide-reach of the Internet is how you’ll likely find him. And don’t eliminate him because he lives an hour away.

Reader Comments "Who Pays?" and other issues

Ray wrote: "It's my experience that the lonely senior women who are always asking, 'Where and how can I meet a man,' and then finally meet someone, still expect a 'free ride.' In the 8 years I have been single, I have only dated one woman who insisted on sharing dating expenses. I know you've addressed 'Who pays?' before, but it might be time to do so again."

Response: Ok Ray, we'll put it on the agenda for a future article. And then I'll run and hide as the barbs and arrows fly.

Margo, "I'm a big fan. I enjoy reading your column as I feel you present the issues in a warm, common sense manner. You also address many sides and alternative solutions. I'm 59 and have been in a co- hab relationship for 29 years."

Response: Thanks Margo, as June Carter Cash used to say, "I'm just trying to matter" (as reported by Reese Witherspoon when she accepted the Oscar for her portrayal of June this year).

Screwing up a good thing

“I’ve been dating a man for 4 months. We see each other approximately every other weekend and talk on the phone every night. He says he loves me and our time together is always excellent,” Mary Ellen emailed.

I love to receive emails and letters that begin like that. Finding love is hard later in life; it’s good news when two older adults connect.

But wait, there’s more from Mary Ellen: “I asked him a question that if I never saw him again, how would he feel. He said he would probably be sad for a month or so but would go on with his life. He said he wouldn’t think about me for the rest of his life.

“He said he isn’t and has never been a mushy person. However, while I talked to him on the phone before we met in person, he said sweet things and even sent me cards with nice romantic words.”

And then Mary Ellen added, “He was separated for a year but only recently divorced. Also, he is an attorney. What should I think about this relationship? He makes me happy and sad concurrently.”

Oh my gosh. Her question to him is a perfect example of how to screw up a good thing. And even though my mom hates the word, this woman is being “anal.” She’s dated a newly-divorced man, what, 8 to 10 times? She says he is making her sad because he wouldn’t miss her forever if she never saw him again. Hogwash, she’s making herself sad. She's allowing her insecurities and naivety to bubble out.

I said, “Why did you ask him that question? It was childish. What difference does it make how he would feel if you never saw him again? Men are mushy during the pursuing stage, which shows they are trying. But in the real world, when men are too mushy, women get turned off.”

I asked her what difference does it make that he’s an attorney? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Most attorneys are human and have feelings just like the rest of us. She replied, “I mentioned his career because attorneys seem to be emotionally controlled- maybe his reason for logic.”

If this guy hasn’t dumped her yet, he will soon. I suggested she appreciate him for who he is. Forget the after-the-relationship-ends speculation, live in the present. She needs a dose of John Gray’s, “Men Are From Mars. Women Are From Venus” book.

When someone special enters your life, treasure him. Don’t lay some silly question on him.

Intimacy Before Marriage?

Recipients of this newsletter have strong opinions and aren’t afraid to share them when they feel strongly about a topic. Last week’s column about Gail—who had been in a platonic, friendship-only, relationship with Charles for three months—triggered an avalanche of responses.

Gail and Charles had attended functions together and share many interests—church, dancing, dining, concerts, opera, camping and fishing. They had agreed that being intimate had to wait until after marriage.

When Charles started dating another woman, Gail realized her feelings for him had changed, that she was attracted to him and feared she’d lose him. She asked what she should do. Many of you, mostly women, responded with opinions that zeroed in on the intimacy-waiting-until-marriage issue.

Another Gail said, “Good grief, Gail needs to get into this century. I would NEVER consider marrying a man with whom I did not have sex. How will she know if it even works? I don’t blame Charles for wanting to date someone else, if you are a healthy person, sex with a person you’re dating is a natural part of your relationship. I find it really, really sad that so many over-50 women don’t care much for sex.”

The term chemistry was mentioned often. Sophia said, “No matter how well matched they may be, Charles does not feel chemistry and is simply not ‘into her.’ I suggest Gail collect her dignity and move on.”

Tammy wrote, “If Gail has chemistry with Charles, she needs to forget the sex-only-after-marriage thing, and go for it. We’re too old to worry about marriage.”

Withholding no punches, Shirley emailed: “How can this platonic lady friend even imagine that she can kindle the flames of a romance with this guy by withholding sex? Is she an aged virgin who must prove she is intact before marriage? She claims he agreed to this ridiculous bargain.

“Women who consider marrying without knowing whether they are sexually compatible are nuts! It isn’t important whether they share love of camping unless they’re sharing the same bed. Six months of friendship without sexual interest is conclusive evidence he’s not interested.”

Valerie said: “It was too late from the get go. Physical attraction is either there at the onset or it’s not.”

Sarah mentioned that Gail should tell Charles she’s willing to be romantic: “What’s to gain? A lifetime of happiness. Worth giving it a shot? You betcha!”

Marilyn chimed in. “We can’t go by the same rules we went by when we were teenagers. I’m not suggesting wild abandon, but a little assertiveness when there is an attraction is a good idea. I’m planning to travel with my ‘gentleman caller,’ even though as a young adult, my parents would have been horrified!”

Annie said, “She should tell Charles she is ready to step up to a romantic relationship. See what he says. She may be sorely disappointed, but is giving herself the opportunity to be the special person in his life.”

From Elaine: “What the old boy is saying is, ‘I don’t feel enough for you physically to take my Viagra.’ I’ll bet the new gal has been worth his time and trouble in that department. He’s using ‘chastity until marriage’ as an excuse to keep her as a gal-pal.”

And finally two men’s opinions: “As for the woman fiddling around with whether she should continue seeing the guy who is now seeing another woman, I think that ship has already sailed,” George said.

JB, in Michigan, said, “I am a 55-year-old single male, and I do not waste any time on women who want to be ‘just friends.’ Why would I? I don’t seek a once-in-awhile female companion; I seek a one-flesh union with a like-minded female.”

As we age, can new relationships thrive without intimacy? Friendship-only relationships can. But the majority of people who responded feel that without intimacy, those relationships won’t go to the next level.

Help this woman out

A woman asked, “How does one address the issue of friendship changing to attraction when the man seems to be unaware that there may be a change?”

She requested to remain anonymous because she doesn’t want to jeopardize any chance that her friendship with him might develop into something more. Hence, we shall call her Gail and him Charles.

Gail met Charles six months ago. “Just friends, nothing more,” says Gail. “There has not been anything physical or even romantically inclined dating. We both enjoy the same activities and have gone to a lot of functions together. These include church, dancing, dining, philharmonic, opera, and fishing.” Gail says she enjoys camping and anything outdoors. She says that she and Charles agree that being physical must wait until after marriage.

Gail isn’t sure if she loves Charles. “I admire him greatly and would like to get to know him better with the possibility of a future in mind. We are such a match in almost all areas of life—faith, activities, interests, values, intelligence and goals,” Gail said.

But the problem is, three months ago, Charles told Gail he wanted to date someone else and asked for friend-only Gail’s opinion.

“My advise was go for it, ask her out and see what develops. Charles started dating her last week. They seem to hit it off quite nicely, but she does not share, and, in fact, dislikes and is afraid of some of the activities he and I enjoy,” Gail said. Of course, that Charles and the lady are hitting it off, bothers Gail. She doesn’t want to lose Charles’s friendship nor a possible future with him.

Plus, Charles gives Gail confusing signals. He has told her, “I think I’m missing something important with you” and “I don’t know why I’m looking for anyone else, I should just stick with you.”

There is another factor at play here. Gail lives 25 miles from Charles and her workplace is 10 miles in the opposite direction from her home. Whereas the other women lives close to Charles and is more geographically desirable.

I suggested to Gail that she let Charles know that she’d like to be more than just friends. And while she and Charles feel intimacy must wait until after marriage, if I were Gail, I’d be concerned about Charles and the new woman becoming romantically entangled.

Charles and Gail seem to be compatible in all areas except romance—an incredibly important aspect of a relationship. I think it’s time for Gail to take Charles to dinner and plant a couple of big ones on him. That is, if she wants to reel him into the roost. How else is she going to find out if she loves him and if there is chemistry?

They’ve been friends for six months. If she’d like to become more than “just friends,” her arrangement with him needs to change. Plus, if he becomes a couple with the other women, chances are, that woman won’t allow Charles to maintain his friendship with Gail.

It’s time for Gail to put her assertive hat on— particularly because she’s at a geographical disadvantage—if it isn’t too late already.

Comments about last week's column: Several readers wrote that I was out of line advising Sherrill to stop her counseling. That I was too harsh on her, that she still needs counselor guidance. I agree I was out of line. Who am I to say that someone should or should not have counseling?

I should have said, I hope Sherrill's counselor is teaching Sherrill to help herself and if not, she should find a counselor who will help her teach herself.

One reader said I'm too focused on money--I'm not sure where that came from but I will admit that spending money on a counselor for nine months or more with no results isn't for me. Gosh, at least change the counselor to get some results.

So, Sherrill, I apologize for giving you wrong advice. I'm not a licensed therapist, not even a licensed columnist, whatever that means. I'm just presenting the man's point of view of dating after 50, 60 and beyond, trying to share a little common sense. And now back to our regular programming.

Welcome new subscribers and guests. I will be sending a separate notice to subscribers whose memberships expire in May. Email me if you are unsure of when your subscription expires.

See the links at the bottom of the newsletter to the romance scams site, the AARP convention site and to Tom's newest book site.

Tom's Upcoming Radio appearances: Wednesday, May 17: I'm scheduled to be interviewed on Playboy radio on Sirius Satelitte radio (Channel 198), details to follow. Call your questions in if you are a Sirius subscriber.

Blame it on loneliness

“Sometimes you’re willing to put up with more than you should because you hate being alone,” was the meat and potatoes of Sherrill’s (not her real name) email to me. She explained that loneliness is likely the reason she endured a 2 ½ year on-again/off-again relationship.

After reading the rest of Sherrill’s email, I think loneliness was only part of the reason she stayed with the guy for 2 ½ years. Low self-esteem was the other. I mean no disrespect toward Sherrill. I admire her courage for sharing her story. But, this is how I see her situation and I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

Sherrill said, “We met on the Internet and the chemistry was there, but it was not a 50/50 (or even a 60/40) relationship. Perhaps it was from his divorce 12-years prior that he had forgotten how to give, or how to take care of another. I thought I could live with it, but found that my needs weren’t being met; I started to feel resentful and exhausted for always taking care of and seeing that he was happy.”

My first comment: why would anyone spend 2 ½ years in a relationship where he or she is receiving less than 40 percent of the benefit? Sounds like she expected him to take care of her. As we age, we shouldn’t count on someone else taking care of us or making our lives better, we must do that ourselves.

Sherrill said, “When we broke up last year, he asked if we could see a counselor; I reluctantly agreed. We’ve been to counseling every week for nearly nine months, but he still can’t see that his behavior is often selfish and rude, and I feel unloved.”

Next comment. Sherrill reluctantly agreed to counseling. Here again, she did something he wanted, not what she wanted. It boggles my mind why couples would spend nine months (or more) in counseling if nothing is being accomplished. Think of all the money being wasted.

I was involved in a stormy relationship once. We agreed to go to counseling. As we walked in, “My partner said, ‘Don’t tell the counselor the truth.’” It was evident to me that nothing was going to be accomplished. We never went again—think of the money we saved.

Sherrill continued: “We never lived together, but spent weekends together. A few weeks ago we went away for a long weekend and it was a disaster. It was all about him, even though he said he was trying to make the weekend special for me. I realized he still has no clue as to who I am or what I need.”

Comment: Sherrill, thank heavens you had the good sense not to live with him. You say, “He has no clue as to who I am or what I need.” You are as guilty here as he. Why did you think he would change after 2 ½ years?

Sherrill ended with: “It’s sad but I can’t live the rest of my life being a mother or caretaker to this man. I want and need more. I am seeing the counselor alone now. I need to figure out why I give so much of myself to my own detriment.”

Final Comment: Sherrill, it’s not sad that you can’t go on forever being a mother or caretaker to him. It’s wonderful. And stop going to counseling. The counselor must love you for all of the money you’ve spent. Instead, smarten up and stop being a wimp and take responsibility for your own happiness.

I’m happy to say that Sherrill has ended the relationship and has stopped being an enabler—trying to make someone else happy. But does she have the fortitude to go forward and not cave in to him again? For her sake, let’s hope so.

Should he tell you he won't be calling anymore?

Most requests to write a column on a particular topic are sent to me by email, snail mail or via this newsletter. But, a handwritten, anonymous request was dropped off at my Dana Point, Calif. deli last week. “I’d be interested to hear what you and your readers have to say on this topic,” it stated. (See deli link below).

The person had made a copy of a column titled “Ask Amy” that was in the March 9, 2006, LA Times. In that column, a man asked Amy, “If I go out with a woman two or three times but don’t want to go out with her again, do I have an obligation to call her that I won’t be seeing her again? After how many dates do I have to tell a woman I won’t be calling?” The man signed his letter “Clueless in Cleveland.”

The over-50 dating game has turned into a “slam bam, thank you ma’am” arena, mainly due to the impersonal nature of the Internet, which to some, is a ticket to treat people poorly. If you don’t like the person you’re emailing, delete or simply don’t respond. Forget etiquette and courtesy. Move on to the next piece of cattle. Pretty sad, right?

At least give Clueless in Cleveland credit for asking. Some men—and women too—wouldn’t care about being considerate. Clueless raises a touchy subject. He could attempt to be a gentleman and call to tell her he wasn’t going to date her anymore. And she could tongue-lash him into oblivion. Not pleasant for him.

Or, the woman might be cordial and thank him for being a gentlemen. The problem Clueless faces: Which woman will answer the phone?

Most older singles were raised to be respectful; they expect to be treated that way as well. When they are treated rudely, they take it personally. One of the messages I try to convey to them is not to take rudeness or rejection personally. It’s a hard pill for some to swallow. Sure is for me.

If I were answering Clueless in Cleveland’s question, I’d say “You don’t have to call at all. The number of dates doesn’t matter—one, two, four or six. It’s okay to be a jerk.

“But, Clueless, be a man. Call her. It takes guts to tell someone you aren’t interested in pursuing a relationship. Yes, she may get angry, curse at you or hang up. But at least by telling her, you’d be a man of dignity and honor. After all, she spent her valuable time with you and is a human being with feelings and emotions.”

If a date acted rudely, well, that’s a different story. Why waste the cost and time of a phone call? I’d skip the chivalry in a case like that. And why would you date someone more than once if he or she acted rude?

If older singles would treat each other with respect, the dating-after-50 process would be less of a game and a much nicer place to play. A man doesn’t have to be a Mr. Milquetoast, just a gentleman—the way he was likely raised by his parents.

Success Stories

Nothing pleases me more than to hear from older singles that they’ve met someone. Many meet online. Others meet in unexpected places such as at the vet or in stores. In today’s newsletter, we even hear of two women who met men after relocating to new areas of the country.

Today’s stories are proof that having a positive attitude and a zest for life can pay off in more than an enriched life. You just may stumble across a mate also. Take note, these women are from all over the USA and most felt they'd never meet someone.

I’ve written about Audrey before. She moved from New Jersey--because of the cost of living and the cold winters—to Georgia and met a man there. They live in separate homes, and have a great relationship. Had Audrey not had the will to seek a better life, she wouldn’t have met her new beau.

Pat moved from Orange County, Ca (a very expensive place, I know, I live there) to Prescott, Az., a year and a half ago. She had met a man in the OC before moving. He moved to Az to be with her. Pat said, “I love it here. The air is so clean & the skies so blue they are almost blinding. And, there is not so much traffic and hurry to get places.” Pat had the nerve to move and it has paid off.

Marilyn in Massachusetts has been a subscriber to this newsletter for years. She often joked about single life in Medford where she lived. Then she dropped this email on me in February, “As Valentine’s Day rolls around, I find myself in a wonderful relationship. No more Marilyn in Medford.” She met him on classmates.com and moved to be with him.

Last autumn, Jan from Columbus, Ohio, shared with me her boyfriend woes. It seemed the man in her life let me down often. In February, Jan wrote, “I have met a very nice man on the internet. My friend Emily says he’s ‘the one’ for me. Emily is never wrong.” So Jan’s on the road to happiness. Oh, her subscription to match.com was to expire 19 dates later, and she wasn’t going to renew.

And then there’s Pat from Shickshinny, Pa. Recently, Pat emailed, “I met a wonderful man 12 months ago on www.BikerKiss.com. (I went to that site as sort of a joke, a girlfriend had just bought a motorcycle.) He and I started to write, met for lunch, and hit if off while talking for three hours.”

Now Pat, 66, and Len, 62, can’t wait until the weather clears so they can hop on his motorcycle and visit areas of the United States they haven’t seen.

Last week, Gayle, Las Vegas, emailed, “Met a gentleman on Match.com the first of the year. I had been working on finding someone for about 18 months after a nasty divorce. My new man had met about 20 women through the year and told my friends his dog looked better than the ones he’d met. We married in two months and couldn’t be happier.”

Jane Ann, Michigan, met a man also on Match.com who lives only 20 miles away from her. “We just returned from three weeks in South Africa, and were in Egypt in September. We plan lots of trips as money allows.”

Barb also packed up and moved from Orange County. But she moved to Massachusetts. She had exchanged emails with a man in New England on a catholic site but had never met him. After moving, they met for coffee at Starbucks. “Wouldn’t you know it, just your typical Southern California beach gal moves across the country, is greeted by a blizzard (38”), meets a handsome New England man, and the rest is living history.”

Gloria, 55, St. Louis, was on Yahoo! Personals when Edward made contact. “We’re both ‘old’ hippies, so from the beginning we made a connection. He’s a retired college professor, who now ‘dabbles’ in real estate and I’m a RN in the ER of a local hospital. We talk about moving in together at some point but we’re happy with things as they are at the moment.”

Keep on trucking, biking, and hiking, there are singles out there like you who would love to hook up with a nice mate. Don’t be afraid to shake up your life once in a while. You never know when opportunity might creep through the back door.

Marriage or Live Together?

During the Christmas holidays, Dave, 70, a widower of two years, met Kathy, 69, while shopping in a bookstore. “We’ve been dating and partners since. Between us, we have nine children, 20 grandchildren and one great grandchild,” Dave said, and then asked, “Should we get married or live together?”

That’s an explosive question, one that puts me on the hot seat with readers. Regardless of my response, some people will object. But since Dave asked, here goes.

A major consideration is financial. By remarrying, will either party forfeit survivor benefits from a previous marriage? Will there be a pre-nuptial agreement to protect each other’s respective assets? Children and grandchildren will be particularly concerned about that, especially if their inheritances will be jeopardized.

And what about daily living expenses? Who pays for what? And what if a new spouse gets sick, who will cover the hospital and doctor bills? And what if one of them dies, who pays expenses related to that? How will the survivor be taken care of financially? If they decide to marry, each should see a separate financial counselor.

Another major consideration is moral. What are their religious beliefs? How do they, their kids, and friends feel about them living together without being married? Do their religious beliefs and affiliations frown on living out of wedlock?

Whenever I write that living together without being married could work best for certain couples, some people accuse me of dispensing amoral advice. One woman said, “By expressing ‘nothing is wrong’ with living together, you negatively impact behavior of our younger generation.” Others quote verses from the Bible.

Who's right? Who's wrong? Who's to say? The decision is up to the couple and no one else.

A while ago, I posed the question, “What should older couples who live together but aren’t married call themselves?” It was meant to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek column. No harm intended. Dr. Laura got wind of it on her radio program and suggested women in such relationships be called “shack-up honeys.” (Not her exact words, but similar. I personally didn’t hear what she said.)

Another consideration is tolerance. As we age, each of us has acquired personal habits that could offend a mate. How sad to marry quickly and then wake up a few weeks later asking oneself, “Why did I get married?”

For Dave and Kathy, I think it’s pretty darned soon to be talking marriage. They’ve only known each other three months. He had a very difficult healing from the death of his wife. In fact, he’s written a book about it. I think their marriage decision should wait, primarily because of the healing factor. And whether they live together or not, well, that’s up to them.

People considering marriage should know that more than 70 percent of second and third marriages end in divorce. That’s an against-the-odds number.

However, a research study crossed my desk this week by Nicholas Wolfinger, an associate professor at the University of Utah, that stated, "Rebounding into a second marriage is no more or less likely to increase the chance of another divorce than if a person waits a longer period of time." So, maybe waiting makes little difference.

Personally, I think older folks who meet and fall in love should cool their marriage jets for awhile. What’s the rush?

Some argue they have little time to waste; they want to enjoy life and be together now. And yes there are people who’ve known each other for only a few months who’ve had successful marriages.

Even living together is no stroll in the harbor, but it’s much easier to extricate oneself from a live-in situation than a marriage.

We’ll see what Dave and Kathy decide. I’ve asked them to keep us posted.

Internet Successes

I would guess that nearly every person who subscribes to this newsletter has used the Internet to meet potential mates. Lately, many have been sharing their experiences.

A woman, 65, living in Santa Fe, NM, emailed that she joined eharmony.com four months ago. “So far, I’ve received five bummer matches but I haven’t given up. I have deduced that perhaps I’m just too intelligent and too liberal for men in New Mexico and Colorado.”

John, Southern Calif., said,: “A woman I met on the Internet was reluctant to meet in person. After I gave her my phone number, it took several weeks before she called. Finally, she phoned and invited me to a musical the same night. On such short notice, I knew I hadn’t been her first choice. But, I had nothing planned, so I went anyway.

When we met, there was instant chemistry. We’ve been seeing each other regularly since.”

For Audrey, Mendham, N.J., a widow of five years after 41 years of marriage, the Internet was the answer, “Started meeting people in the easiest place, the Internet. Followed rules for safe dating, met some married, some singles who misrepresented themselves and others who were nice. Took nothing personally. Met a widower online three years ago who lived near Atlanta.”

Audrey moved to Canton, Ga. “My relocation was incidental, not dependent upon our relationship.” She moved into her own home and lives near her children. She blames her move on the cold winters and cost of living in NJ, but admits having her man-friend near by helped in her decision.

Karen, Ct., found success online, “I had two divorces and two deaths in the past and felt that life with another was out of the question. When I filled out an Internet personal ad, I was nervous and worded it in such a way that no man would want to meet a person like me—Irish dancing, church, friendship, family and theatre. Gave no sexual info or desires of interest.

“I received one response, a man who lived 20 minutes from me. It took several months of speaking before I agreed to meet; I took an entourage of people along for protection. We’ve been in a loving relationship for three years. I’m glad I took the chance, despite my vulnerability.”

The Internet has helped Alice, Bath, Me., jump-start her dating: “I wanted to have a life again. I had to take the initiative to make it happen. I signed up with two Internet dating services, and started chatting and e-mailing other singles. I meet in public places the first few times. I’ve made friends, men I might not want to date, but good people.

“You can block anyone you choose. It has brought a new spark back into my life, and may eventually lead to meeting that special someone. I don’t play games, men have also been hurt and are also looking for someone special.”

Gale, late 60s, Leicester, NC, found Jack online in upstate New York. She’s a transplanted New Yorker so she and Jack had much in common. Jack visited Gale in North Carolina. “Love bloomed that weekend. We married on Valentine’s Day two years ago. What a beautiful wedding it was,” said Gale.

Internet relationships aren’t fail safe. Beth, Birmingham, Al, e-mailed, “I met my second husband online. We didn’t know each well enough when we married. I’m divorced again, back looking on the Internet. Might meet my ‘soul mate’ one day.”

When meeting strangers, always be careful. If someone sounds too good to be true, they likely are. Trust your instincts. Meet in a well-lighted place and tell your friends or family with whom you’re meeting and where.

Tina Tessina, Long Beach, CA, (www.tinatessina.com), author, therapist and relationships coach shared her advice. “In my office, I see much pain from Internet dating. It’s a setup to be unrealistic and get your heart broken.

“Meet the person face to face as soon as possible, and get him or her around your friends. If you want a second date, make it a group date. Your friends will find out more in one meeting than you can find out in weeks—it’s hard to ‘con’ a group.”

Should older singles use their computers to meet others? A resounding yes. The Internet can bring people together, particularly those in small cities where there are few singles. But, it should be just one aspect of a single’s overall marketing plan to find a mate. Getting out and networking with people is equally as important.

The success stories described here wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the Internet. If you use it, be wise, careful and cautious.

When women earn more than the men they date

An unexpected spin off from last week’s “who pays?” question were the opinions of women who earn more than the men they date. It’s surprising to learn that so many men are uncomfortable being with a woman who outshines them financially. Perhaps there’s a lesson for these men in today’s column.

But let's be fair right up front. Not all men have a problem being with a woman who earns more. But many do.

Suzanne said, “In my last relationship, I was wealthier than the man I was dating. He is from the old school and insisted on paying for everything and was insulted when I offered. It’s a fine line that we walk in these relationships.

“I would have preferred to go to more upscale restaurants, but as he could not afford them, we did not. It became an issue. Several times, I asked him if I could treat, and he refused, only allowing it once when he had chosen the restaurant. Men of our generation have issues about who is in charge and who pays.”

Val emailed, “I rarely date a man in worse financial shape than I am, because for a man (since they were raised to be the primary income earner), if they do not have some savings, a house, etc., unless they had a failed business or health expenses, then that is a possible red flag that he may not be responsible. It’s not a deal breaker, it just means I look more carefully.”

Joan shared: “I was in a relationship where I did all the planning and spending while in a high-stress career while my retired boyfriend sat back and had to approve every move. Boy was I silly. I learned a great lesson, relationships need to be partnerships where we each bring added value and enhancement to each other.

“I didn’t know it really bothered him that I am educated, earn a terrific living and all of his friends and children love me. The relationship changed from romantic to history.”

Suzanne #2 wrote, “Men do not always earn more. I found myself in a dating situation with a wonderful man who was not nearly as financially stable as me. The relationship ended by mutual consent but before it did I had to evaluate whether I could handle the financial stability issue if it became long term. I have a decent retirement nest egg and have earned a steady, modest salary with benefits for many years. I’ve been conservative with my spending and investments.

“He had lost jobs (in industries that downsized) and although he had picked himself up and developed a stable consulting business, he was living hand-to- mouth. He had no retirement savings, no medical insurance and was facing the reality that he would have to keep working for a very long time. He also seemed to spend more impetuously than I. If the relationship is good in every other way, a woman may have to make the decision to take on the responsibility of providing for a man.”

Joan #2, “The most troubling issue for me in dating is that many women earn as much or more than the men they date. For me, it’s become a major issue and has often ended a potential relationship after the first date. This is such an issue for me that I will not respond or write to any man who does not at least earn as much as me. If he earns more, so much the better. But even then, the male ego is such that many men simply cannot deal with a successful woman. Women are too much competition for them.

Note from Tom: I’m not sure how Joan #2 finds out upfront how much a man earns. Questioning a man about how much he earns could chase him off whether he earns more or less.

Sophia, 66, “I’m uncomfortable if I do not share expenses 50-50 with my gentlemen friends. I still work and command a rather good salary while my dates are usually retired. I’m startled when I learn what most of these guys are living on, for it’s not nearly so much as I suspect many gals think, and I’m talking about the guys who earned well above average salaries when working. Women forget that yesterday’s earnings that are the basis of a retired man’s fixed income do not easily cover the expenses of two for a social occasion.”

Wouldn’t it be something if men learned a lesson from today’s column? If you’re a guy who’s dating, courting, living with or thinking about pursuing a woman who earns more or has more assets than you, and it bothers you, put your ego aside, forget the control bit, and just enjoy her and appreciate that she’s done so well. Who knows? You might improve your life dramatically by lightening up and accepting that she excels in her profession.

Singles Need to Protect 4 Things

Many older people who become single are a bit naïve and gullible. It’s understandable, some haven’t had a date with anyone other than their spouse in 30 or 40 years.

Sadly, some fall into unfortunate situations that had they known about beforehand, could have been avoided. As an older single, you need to protect four things when dating again.

First, protect your heart. Perhaps you are lonely and desperately want companionship. You miss sharing and feel empty. You’re vulnerable and can easily let your guard down.

One widow who considers herself to be intelligent, street-smart, well-educated and grounded became involved with a “wonderful” man. He filled the big, empty space in her life. But a telephone call from the man’s aunt revealed a dark side. He was a liar and a con artist. She found out before major damage was done, but her heart was bruised.

While loneliness is difficult, having one’s heart broken at our age is worse. Be careful where you allow your heart to lead you. Trust your instincts. If something or someone is too good to be true—well, you know the rest of that sentence.

And for sure, if you meet someone you really like, don't smother him (or her). That's the quickest way to blow a relationship.

Should Women Travel Alone?

Should single women travel by themselves?

Beth,59, emailed, “One of my dear friends is getting married this summer. Her parents are celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary and their family is going on a cruise to Alaska. My friend will be married on the cruise. She asked a few friends to come. Most will be couples.

“On my dream list is to go to Alaska and here is my chance to be with people I know. BUT, alone in a couples group? Travel to Seattle alone? In a cabin alone?”

Beth asked for my opinion on whether she should go.

I told her if she can afford to go, she should go. Being single should not keep people from living life. Think of the millions of singles without partners. Does that keep them down? No. I respect them for having the courage to tough out being alone and for having the nerve to get out there.

When singles take trips, they need to plan, be travel savvy and make many decisions.

One of the first decisions is whether to go alone or with a group. Jane says, “I’m more open to meeting others when I travel solo.”

People traveling alone pay almost double compared to when sharing a room. Gail said, “I went on a two- week cruise from Venice to Barcelona. I booked a single room and paid thru the nose.” Still, Gail felt her trip was worth the money.

Traveling with a group usually means having a roommate, which can be good or bad. Joanne, Los Angeles, said, “The person I was teamed up with was a ‘nut’ who wanted to borrow money. After a few days, I paid the upgrade and had my own space, much better albeit lonely.”

And speaking of roommates, what if they snore? Or you snore? When sharing a room, bring earplugs. Gayla recommends “Traveling with a tour group for safety, comfort and lots of fun. Pick a tour that interests you and you’ll meet people with similar interests. Plus, your itinerary is planned.”

To avoid loneliness and to enrich their trip,singles traveling solo must take the initiative to meet people. While cruising, Gail meets others by “Taking late dinner seating and requesting singles at my table. I attend the dances and other activities geared toward singles, hopefully segregated by age.”

When my mom was widowed, she went to Paris alone. She met the librarian of the Philadelphia orchestra and his wife at her hotel. Mom says, “We had many meals together and their friendship and kind gestures made my time in Paris beyond anything I’d dreamed possible.”

Staying at a B&B is more intimate than at a larger hotel and is a good way to meet people. Most singles don’t enjoy eating alone. At B & Bs, you’re seated with others.

Janet said, “Strike up a conversation with the person seated next to you on the plane, train, bus or bar stool, and you’ll meet people who know places to visit and things to do.”

Ivory, Ga, e-mailed, “Single men don’t travel alone. The cruise lines hire dance partners for single women. Sometimes, a single guy will bring a woman to avoid being alone. This is no help as no one knows she’s a stand-in. Why bring sand to the beach?”

“More single women travel than single men,” said Burl. He recommends single guys go on cruises or to Cancun, “where single women go with the hope of meeting someone.”

Terry says he always travels with a woman : “I’m 62, going on 25. Still, I don’t like to travel alone.”

Singles need to be careful and avoid dangerous situations. Be aware of local conditions. When I visited Belize City, Belize, the hotel warned everybody—not just singles—about the danger of walking more than a few yards from the hotel at night.

Linda, advises, “Leave good jewelry at home, use ATMs, only take a couple of credit cards, make two copies of your passport, license, credit cards, etc. Leave one at home and put one in a suitcase.”

Don’t walk around reading a map, it’s a dead give-away that you’re a naïve tourist.

“I take a backpack. It’s easier to keep all of your stuff together and lighter than a purse. In London, there are a lot of pickpockets at night, so I carry it in front,” said Sandi.

Inspect hotel mini-bars before unpacking. Report any discrepancy to the hotel immediately. A four-star hotel in Ixtapa, Mexico, tried to charge my partner and me $300 for mini bar use and we hadn’t even opened the door. A small bottle of water in a Madrid hotel mini bar cost us $5.00

Will singles find love? Chances are they won’t. “I met a nice man on a trip who was an excellent dancer and we danced the cruise away. I saw him a couple of months later, but it faded away,” said Sally.

Jim said, “Travel is a great way to enrich one’s life but not the best way to meet single people.”

“I went by myself on a 21-day river cruise through Germany and established a friendship with a widower from Oregon, however, a romantic relationship has not blossomed yet,” said Susan.

June said, “Shipboard romances don’t last. Don’t have high hopes after docking.”

When traveling remember that no trip goes perfectly. Keep your wits about you and have fun. We look forward to hearing how Beth’s cruise to Alaska turns out.

The real world of mature-age dating

Do you ever ask yourself: “Am I the only person without a mate?” Or, “Why can't I meet a man (or woman) for me on the Internet?” Or, “Should I move to another city where finding a man (or woman) would be easier? “What’s the real world of dating like for people 50, 60 or 70-plus?”

Daily, I receive emails with questions, observations, opinions and experiences about single life in 2006. Many people find themselves alone, a situation they never dreamed they'd be in. They wonder if they're the only ones puzzled by the hand that’s been dealt to them.

But it's not just happening to you. The dating-after-50-60-70 puzzle exists across the USA, Canada and other countries as well.

Diane, 70, Lakewood, Ohio, a widow of four years, wrote, “Are there ANY men in my neck of the woods over 65? Don’t want to waste my time. Can you tell me if I have a chance at a date?”

I told her there are single men in Ohio. But finding them is the challenge and it’s up to her. To her credit, she’s active, out and about and pursuing positive activities. Diane has two websites. She’s a weaver and a musician. She may meet a man, she may not. Sounds like she’s doing all she can to enrich her life.

And then there’s Sandy, Southern Calif., “Sometimes I feel alienated and alone in this world of mature dating while trying to find someone who has tolerance in their bones. I’ve been net-dating for two years. Met a man from Sedona (Arizona). We conversed extensively via emails and on the phone.

“Went to Sedona two weeks ago, he was attentive and warm. Only problem, I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. Not the coffee pot, cooking, clearing of dishes, nothing. I even put a roll of toilet paper on the holder incorrectly.

“After what I went through with my marriage— walking on eggshells to please—I knew instantly this wouldn’t work.”

Think the dating situation might be better in a groovy city like Santa Fe, New Mexico? Not according to Judith, 65, who lives there. “Talk about a bad place to meet men. Santa Fe seems to be the worst. Most of the males, to put this gently, have bright red necks. New Mexico is sparsely populated. It’s called the ‘Land of Enchantment’ and it truly is, but socially it’s the weirdest place I’ve ever been.”

How about a bigger city in NM? Judith added, “It’s always been my choice to have nothing to do with men in Albuquerque, as I lived there for awhile and that says it all. On eHarmony, I’ve change my regional choice to the whole country."

And then there’s Trish, widow of five years, Chantilly, VA. Her son convinced her to try Internet dating. “With one of my first attractions—I thought to myself—this guy’s too good to be true. He was perfect (I thought). We emailed back and forth till I was comfortable giving him my pic, then my phone number. Never gave him my name. It fell flat. Where did I go wrong? His loss, move on.”

Trish’s advice: “Love yourself, be self-sufficient socially and financially. Don’t rely or depend on anyone. You can do and be anything you want. Never say never. Having a big circle of friends is the best thing. Get involved in community, church or work. Be happy and trust yourself that it’ll happen when the time is right. Believe.”

Next week, we’ll hear about a woman from Charlotte, Michigan, who tracked down her high school boyfriend, 50 years later, and moved across the country to be with him. You'll find out if it's working or not.

You aren’t alone. Keep the faith. Keep active.

Who Pays?

On Monday, I wrote a column in the Orange County Register that sighted two relationships that ended because of money. In one case, the man told the woman that she became ‘too comfortable’ with him paying for things.

In the second case, a millionaire stopped dating his girlfriend because she was acting like an “Orange County Dolly,” his term for wives who played tennis or rode horses all day while their husbands worked. True, the girlfriend wasn’t his wife, but she was being taken care of financially and had the attitude, “He can afford it.”

I also wrote in the column, “If a woman dates a man who always pays, she shouldn’t take his spending for granted. He may seem perfectly fine with it—he may pretend it doesn’t bother him—but it could be the silent killer of the relationship. Men are funny creatures. They don’t always reveal what they’re thinking. Resentment can build below the surface without a partner’s knowledge. She should pay attention to what he’s not saying.”

The column was only directed at women in relationships where the men always pay.

As you can imagine, the column brought the critics out of the woodwork. One woman responded that her husband was a REAL MAN because he paid for everything while they were dating and continues to do so now that they’re married.

A man named Bob responded to her: “That was an amusing anecdote about the REAL MAN comment from the gold digger. Some women make a career out of manipulating men into spending money on them.”

Sandi wrote: “Tom, do you think women need to become mind readers? I think that’s a bit unfair.”

I think Sandi missed my point. I was merely warning women who are in relationships where they contribute zero financially to be careful of underlying resentment. My comment had nothing to do with men being poor communicators.

But, since Sandi brought it up, I think a woman in a relationship where the man always pays would be wise to be a bit of a mind reader. Because if she isn’t, he may just up and bail out on her one day.

And then Sandi said, “Unfortunately, in our age range, there are a lot of women who aren’t making a great salary and some who are barely scraping by. We were also raised in a time when men were expected to pay for everything, when women didn’t work outside the home.”

Again, Sandi missed the point. I wasn’t talking about all women. I was only talking about women in relationships where the guy always pays.

I acknowledge Sandi’s argument that men usually make more, and that we were raised in a time when men were expected to pay. I hear those kinds of comments—some men call them excuses—often. But this is 2006. In many situations these days, the women out earn the men.

Bob added, “Based on my experiences, I look for an equitable sharing relationship based upon relative incomes and net worth. If I’m gifting a woman and she is not gifting me in return commensurate with her income, then I realize she is just not that into me. Rather, she is using me. Before I commit, I want a woman who will be as committed to me as I will be to her. No more free rides.”

So, before any of you get upset over this “who pays” issue, remember, I am only speaking of women in relationships where the men pay for most everything. I’m simply trying to help those women keep the money-cow bell ringing.

Tread Lightly

In response to last Friday’s newsletter, I received this email from Linda:

“I’ve been getting the newsletter for a few months now, and I rarely read any positive stories about people meeting and having a successful relationship. Also, there are very few stories about 50-something couples who aren’t widows and widowers. I hope to see more positive articles.”

My first reaction was, I need to defend the newsletter. But then I went back and found that not one of the five newsletters in 2006 was solely about widowed people. And then I checked the number of positive stories and found a pretty good percentage throughout 2005.

And then I said to myself, “Wait a minute. I don’t have to defend this newsletter.”

I work very hard at providing a variety of stories and fresh information. But the newsletter is only as good as the information readers are willing to share. I don’t make this stuff up and readers sure as hell don’t want me to only write about my opinions and experiences. I asked Linda, “Have you contributed a positive story?” No, she hadn’t.

And what struck me as funny about her comments was that the lesson in last week’s column—if you’re in a long-distance relationship and thinking of moving to be with someone you’ve met over the Internet, don’t rush into it without thinking it through long and hard—protect yourself—was extremely important to our generation who uses the web to meet others.

I'm glad Linda expressed her opinion. If I don't know what readers are thinking, I'm not in tune. And it turns out, Linda and I exchanged emails and she's a nice person. We both learned from communicating.

I don’t write positive stories all of the time because that would be misleading to readers, making them believe that dating after 50 and 60 is all roses and chocolate. It’s not. For many, it’s the opposite. Dating later in life is difficult. If I don’t hear of success stories, then I can’t write about them. And I don’t hear a lot of them.

Alerting our readers to protect themselves and making them more savvy about the potholes they may encounter is as important as writing about success stories. If we can steer readers away from situations that could cause heartbreak, or financial loss, that’s part of my mission.

Not all of you feel the same as Linda. Wednesday, I was in my Dana Point, California, deli when two women came in and asked to see me. My gosh, it was MaryJo, one of our newsletter subscribers who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, as in Florida. She was visiting her friend Sue Ellen and decided to make the effort to come meet me.

And what an honor for me. Here were these two wonderful, thoughtful, gracious women who are now personal friends. To meet readers face-to-face warms my heart. MaryJo and Sue Ellen praised the column and said it’s a voice for older singles. It’s the only column they know of written by a man who is somewhat sympathetic to the women’s point of view. (Some men say too much so). When the two women left after a half hour of us talking, you bet there were big hugs.

I consider each of you as family. When you hurt, I hurt. When you’re happy, I’m happy. In this newsletter I can be more personal than I can in my newspaper columns, where editors with sharp pencils have the final say of what stays in.

And to top off my day, another reader, Gloria, 55, emailed that she has found a wonderful guy, age 57, after two years of Internet dating. Gloria’s message: “There are good people out there on the Internet. Oh, you may kiss a few frogs, or find someone less than honest, but don’t settle for them just because you’re lonely. Hold out for the special one who speaks to your heart.”

A final note as Valentine’s Day approaches. Remember, being single isn’t so bad. In fact, it can be pretty darned good. As one of our readers put it, “I’ve been married and unhappy and single and unhappy, and single and unhappy is better, because I can more easily do something about it.” Right on! Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

New Year's Eve

The origin of today’s newsletter began with a woman’s question: “What do you recommend doing for New Years Eve if you are a single living in Laguna Niguel?” Note from Tom: Laguna Niguel is in south Orange County, Ca., and one of the cities in which my newspaper column runs. The woman who asked the question is not one of our subscribers.

I’m a busy guy, but I answer every question I receive from singles, even when the people provide little information about themselves including their age and what their dating interests are. And since she didn’t indicate either—she could have been 80 or 50, into men or not into men—I sent her the best answer I could based on what little information she provided. I thought she would appreciate that I took the time to answer her, and that I did so immediately.

I wrote: “I’m not sure what your interests are but plan now to do something, waiting until the last minute is discouraging. Do you have a friend, woman friend, or group of friends who can get together? Perhaps take in a movie or a show of some type. Or, go to bed early, and get up early, and drive to Pasadena and attend the Rose Parade. If you go toward the end of the Parade route, you can watch for free. Take a lawn chair and blanket and dress warmly. See if a friend will do that with you.”

I thought that was a decent response. Apparently she didn’t. She wrote back, with only these brief words: “And he gives advice to singles???!”

Normally, I would just ignore comments like hers. If someone wants to be rude hiding behind the curtain of email, that’s no big deal to me. Over the 14 years of writing columns, I’ve encountered a few rude people, but not many. I find the rude ones are usually angry about something else in their lives, having zip to do with me.

Most folks who contact me are pleasant and appreciative; their positive attitudes show through in the way they communicate with people, whether it’s in person or via email.

One of the personality traits I stress with singles is the importance of having a positive attitude in life and particularly in dating. Men don’t want to be around a sour woman, and women don’t want to be around a sour man.

I’m not sure what she expected from me, perhaps a detailed itinerary of a suggested New Year’s Eve outing for her, or a list of 10 choices where singles should go on that night. Our correspondence never got that far.

Now, contrast her attitude with Barbara’s attitude. Barbara wrote: “I am 65, have been single over 30 years, pretty much by choice. Re: New Year’s Eve, I enjoy my own company. I savor it as a time to look back over the year and contemplate my plans for the new one. It’s not that I don’t have the opportunity or the invitations to parties or family gatherings. I just like that time to nurture myself; it sets the tone for the new year. People have to like themselves, enjoy their own company and have more on their minds then who they might be kissing at midnight.”

Sara wrote that some women are bitter or angry toward men who left them through death or divorce. She says, “Get over it folks, life is too short. Stop complaining and bitching about everything and everyone and enjoy. The same applies to men.”

If you don’t have a date for New Year’s Eve, don’t sweat it or make a big deal out of it. It’s just another night, “amateur night” as Judy my bank teller says. Grab a friend and have a nice evening—in or out—doing whatever you want. Be creative.

But please remember to say “Happy New Year” and “Thank you” to your waiter or waitress, bartender, ticket taker, taxi driver, or whomever you come in contact with. After all, they are trying to do something nice for you on a night when they’d likely prefer being out having fun themselves.

Enjoy the holiday season, it’s a time to be happy— and positive.

Leaving Ugly

Being dumped in an ugly manner by a lover is a risk older singles face in mid-life relationships. We hear mainly from women on this topic, but, women aren’t the only ones left behind in such a cowardly fashion. I know of two women who emptied out houses without warning while their husbands were away (I was one of those husbands). Today it’s a tale of four women.

Karen, 54, received an online wink from Joe last June. When they met at a restaurant, they were attracted to each other. “But it was his warm personality, laugh, gentle down-to-earth attitude and manners that were most appealing to me,” Karen said.

“He told me I was the best thing that ever happened to him. Said my ex-husband was a fool for leaving me.” They subsequently traveled often, using Joe’s frequent flyer miles.

Over Thanksgiving, they flew to Philadelphia and New York. She met his two sons and their fiancées. Joe invited Karen to his son’s wedding this May and put money down for him and Karen to go on an expensive fishing resort trip in June.

“The morning after we flew home, I got an email that said not to call or visit him. He needed time to ‘think about things.’ He emailed again and said he didn’t think we’d work out. The email thing was a dishonest way to end what I thought was a good, honest, six-month relationship.” Karen pressed him for reasons.

“He emailed that I got ‘too comfortable’ with him paying for things. I was stunned. He hadn’t said anything before. I always bought him nice things, cooked meals, did little errands for him.”

Shirley, a friend of seven years, emailed about a man she began dating in September. “I’ve not written you for eons but it has taken that long to find someone with whom I thought I would be compatible.

“We had been dating at least twice a week since meeting, including a trip to Laughlin. He met some of my friends and family. They liked him. All seemed to go well and he got to the ‘I love you’ part pretty fast. We exchanged nice gifts at Christmas—I gave him a sweater—and enjoyed the day. Future plans included visiting Rose Parade floats and attending a New Year’s Eve party.”

When he left Shirley’s home Christmas day to attend a memorial service, he asked Shirley if he could leave his new sweater behind as he had a heavier one in the car. His request was a little curious to Shirley but she didn’t dwell on it.

He never called again; he never came back for the sweater.

Another friend, Diane, met a man a couple of months ago and felt he was finally the one. I was happy for her, she’s a nice woman and she had hoped for a relationship for a long time.

Diane said, “My ‘significant other’ and I broke up. He wasn’t significant for very long. He is relocating for business and says relationships at a distance are for fools, or some such thing. I’m so disappointed he chose to end the relationship with an email, no confrontation that way.”

Pattie, wrote, “After five years, my boyfriend decided not to call anymore about a week before Christmas. We had traveled extensively together, met each other’s families and become a ‘comfy old couple,’ that is, I thought. He never wanted to take it to the next level and become true life partners.”

In each case, the women verified that nothing bad happened to the men—they hadn’t taken ill or been in an accident. The men had simply chosen to leave ugly.

Shirley asked, “What’s your theory, Tom?”

People who choose to leave ugly have different motivations. There’s no one reason why. I guess for them it’s just the easiest way out. The lesson here: Even though you’re dating someone and it seems to be going well, remember that strange things can happen. Keep your wits about you and your antennae up for small red flag indicators.

The women need to put a positive spin on their situations—as Shirley has done: “I realize this could have been much worse. There was no financial loss, just emotional loss and the frustration of not having any closure on the situation.”

Another positive for the four women to remember: While we way not realize it at the time, opportunity arises from adversity. Yes, what happened was disappointing. But, those men lacked honor, character and backbone. The women are better off without them. And down the road, someone more suitable will enter their lives.

Shirley asked, “What was the sweater routine about if he wasn’t returning?” And then, with a glint in her eye, she added, “What size do you wear? It’s a nice one.”

Long Distance Disaster

The Internet is a wonderful tool for older singles who have no luck meeting potential mates where they live. Because of its nature, the Internet creates long distance relationships.

For people who want to live together and/or marry, who meet on the Internet, someone has to be willing to move. There is a risk involved when two people who don’t know each other well decide to live under one roof. Fred and Shirley's case is an example.

In December, we wrote about Fred, 63, and Shirley, 59, who corresponded on and off for three and a half years before meeting. When they first emailed each other, he was in Los Angeles and she was in Memphis. They lost touch.

Then, Shirley moved to Nashville and Fred moved to Tampa. She was able to track him down because he’d left a forwarding phone number. They met in person for the first time last May when Fred visited her in Nashville. In October, Shirley moved to Tampa to set up a household with Fred. “We are finally home together,” Shirley wrote, sometime around Thanksgiving. I love it when I hear success stories about older singles. But that’s not the end of the story. In January, Fred sent me an update.

“I knew there would be problems the second day she was here because she didn’t pay attention when I showed her how the coffee pot worked and I came out the next morning to find coffee and coffee grounds all over the counter and the floor. It just got worse from there.”

Fred said he soon found out she was lazy and had lied to him. She had told him she was a mortgage broker but he found out that when she’d lived in Memphis, she lived with her son and they were on food stamps. “I think she was just looking for a meal ticket and somebody to take care of her,” he said.

“Her son flew down for Christmas—at my expense, of course—rented a U-haul to take her back to Tennessee—also at my expense. I figured it cost me somewhere over 7k for the three months she was here.

“Then, to add insult to injury, she grabbed several of my things when she packed. I should have watched everything she packed but I didn’t want to make matters worse than they were and figured I could trust her.”

Has Fred learned a lesson? “The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth about ever being able to trust anyone that I meet on the Internet again,” Fred said.

Relationships at our age are tough enough even when you’ve dated someone from the same town for a couple of years before moving in together.

Before making a move to live with someone, or having someone come live with you, particularly someone you barely know, think about it long and hard. We tend to look through rose-colored glasses and naively believe “Oh, we’ll make this work.” In many, many cases, it doesn’t work. Try living near each other for an extended period before co-existing.

And for the person who moves, don’t burn your bridges at home. Have a bailout plan to return to your former life as a backup.

This is one of the realities of long distance relationships. Someone has to move. It’s a high risk roll of the dice.


On Wednesday night, I attended a speech given by Mark Victor Hansen, the co-founder of the Chicken Soup for The Soul Series©. He’s considered to be one of the top ten motivational speakers in America. If you ever get a chance to see him, be prepared to be stimulated. He’s a bright man who loves people.

He stresses that people need to keep improving themselves by setting goals and striving to meet them regardless of age. He encourages seniors to continue challenging themselves. Mark said that when people retire, they should seek other avenues of activity, that an idle mind and body will age people faster than time.

Why Married People Read This Newsletter

7 reasons why married people read this newsletter

Last week, when I asked why married people read this column, the response was overwhelming. Thanks to all of you who took the time to write.

Based on your inputs, I’ve compiled a list of the seven primary reasons married people read about dating and midlife relationships. The reasons are listed by category in the order of the most responses given per category.

This was an unofficial survey based on a sample of approximately 50 of our readers.

7 reasons

1 Appreciation of spouse. This garnered the most comments. Bill, Dallas, said, “Every time I read about someone having lost a loved one, or having a marriage or relationship end, it makes me realize how lucky I am to have the person I married.”

Carol, Jackson, Michigan, “I read it to confirm how lucky I am to have a life partner (47 years this month).

Rosemary, “It helps me understand that we aren’t going to find the ‘perfect’ person, and if we have a good thing, we don’t need to mess it up with our pre- conceived and ‘set’ ways.”

Howard, Annapolis, MD, “It reminds us of the struggles people go through to find happiness, and causes us to reflect on the many blessings of having a lifetime mate.”

2 Preparing for the unknown. It’s hard to label this category. Elaine, Mission Viejo, Calif., helped label it when she wrote, “I suspect married people read your column ‘just in case’ they may find themselves divorced or widowed and on their own.”

Teresa, West Lafayette, Ind., emailed, “With women living as long as they do, I could end up single again, and need good advice.”

Rhen, Calif., “I’m 60. What if somehow one day I no longer have my mate through whatever reason and the older we grow we realize these possibilities.”

Robin, Mississippi, “If something happens to my spouse, I could easily find myself back out in the dating world. Doesn’t hurt to see what others are putting up with.”

Fred, Tampa, “Many married people want to be aware of what to expect, given the age factor and possibility that they also can become single at almost any time due to fate, health reasons, etc.”

3 Help single friends. This category surprised me by the number of responses. Many of our married people try to help their single friends. Eilene said, “I have single woman friends, and pass along your tips, insights and thoughts from a male point of view.”

4 Improves our own marriage. Terry, 66, wrote: “While we already have a mate, and think we are happy, we have the opportunity to see how older folks (mis) behave romantically, and thus vow not to engage in those behaviors that make us less romantically attached or downright unhappy.”

5 Caught in a bad marriage. A surprising number of people admitted they read the column to help evaluate their own situations. One woman said, “I’m 58 and living in a loveless marriage, pondering about leaving this empty situation. Reading what is happening in the dating scene helps me understand what I might expect. When I’m depressed about my situation, I read what others are going through. It picks me up.”

Frances said, “I’m married, but my life could be better. I’ll read anything (Anything? Ouch says Tom).

Hopefully, the column will encourage people in this category to try to make their marriages work before taking other measures.

6 Information and knowledge. Laurie-Ann wrote, “I like to know the reality of what is happening outside my little couple world."

Rhen added to her earlier comments, “Your column reminds us that we still have vibrant years ahead of us where we can still live fully, dream, set goals and meet them, and it’s OK to say we still want companionship, sex, fun, all to have a full life until that moment it ends.”

7 Catch-all category. Some said they read the column because it’s entertaining, others because it gives them ideas on places to go with their spouses. Marci emailed,” I read the column because it is interesting, period.”

Laurie-Ann added to her earlier comment: “I feel a part of Tom’s world and it feels great to belong.”

Pam, San Diego, pointed out: “In each column, there is a personal story that tells a life lesson— happy or sad—there is always a human message.”

It’s good to know that our readers—married and single--want to keep themselves informed and involved with what’s going on as they grow older. The intelligent responses reminded me that you are an elite and very special group of individuals.

Reader Comments

Larry, "I suggest for anyone who is seriously looking that they junk the Internet dating entirely. Go to dances, singles groups, churches and the supermarket."

Tom's response: Hey Larry. How about doing all of those things and make the Internet one aspect of your marketing plan? I hear of too many Internet success stories to drop it altogether.

Anonymous woman reader, "I don't like the newsletter title, "Finding Love After 50." It sounds as if the column is about going out there and "picking up men." (or women), instead of it actually being about "Finding Meaningful Relationships after 50." Am I the only one hung up on semantics? I have been embarrassed to show the column to my kids or friends because I wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea from the title."

Dear Anonymous: "I think I'll let readers comment on your comment. I'll add my comments after they comment. other than to say, I think most of our subscribers would enjoy finding love."

Older Men Dating Younger Women

A producer of the Today Show sent this email on Monday: “I read a great article you wrote on older men dating younger women. The Today Show is doing a segment Wednesday (10/26) on that topic and I wanted to see if you can help me.”

Details: “I am looking for an older woman who is frustrated because she feels that the men her own age are going after women who are significantly younger. I thought you might know the perfect woman for this segment. They would have to be willing to be LIVE on Today and come to New York for the interview. We will fly them in or drive them in and put them up in a hotel the night before.”

(The perfect woman? How about most of you).

Normally, when a request from Today or Good Morning America comes to me, they give me more than a day to get the word out to you readers to see if we can find a match and accommodate the show. That happened last June when nine of us from our group appeared on Good Morning America (some live, some taped).

But this week, because we had less than 24 hours to find somebody, I put my thinking cap on and came up with a few of you who I felt wouldn’t mind being contacted directly by the Today Show. The most obvious was Shirley who lives in Manhattan. It would have been easy for Shirley to appear, a short limo ride from Greenwich Village to Rockefeller Plaza.

Shirley is a wonderful member of our group. She’s intelligent, opinionated, outspoken, but fair. The producer contacted her and emphatically wanted her to appear, but—get this—Shirley had “family commitments, babysitting and such things.” Now there’s a woman with her priorities in the right place.

So, the producer pressed me for more names. I suggested some of you who live in the East, and Mary, who lives in Costa Mesa, CA. Mary said, “They called me and wanted me to fly to New York to be on the next day. I would have loved to but the notice was way too short.” Imagine, Mary saying to her boss: “I’m leaving work early because I’ve got to go home to pack. I’m flying to New York tonight to be on the Today Show tomorrow morning.”

Several of you were contacted, but to my knowledge, none of our group appeared on the show. I didn’t watch it, but Shirley did, reporting: “I assume the replacement for me was a 44-year-old divorcee who had cosmetic surgery at 35 in the hope of finding a suitable man. The divorcee was told by a 60-year-old man that she was the oldest woman he had dated.”

Shirley added, “How they would have ‘used’ me isn’t clear; I’m beyond middle age (76), too smart and too independent for their comfort. Though the advice was for ‘older’ women not to focus on their appearance, that’s all they spoke of. The statistics mentioned on the show were that half of the men 55+ marry women young enough to be their daughters. For those of us in the dating scene, I’d say that these stats understate the frequency of such choices.”

I think most of you know my feelings about older men dating younger women. There are exceptions, of course, but most guys my age would have much more success if they’d pursue women close to their own age. I did, my partner Greta is a year younger.

I’ve written an E-book (an electronic book that is sent via email) called, “Dating The Age Gap. Older vs. Younger. Does it Work?” For book info, follow the "Dating the Age Ga" link below.

Have any of you had to deal with the older men dating younger women issue recently?

Reason To Believe

I’d like to thank singer Rod Stewart for setting the stage for today’s column. Of course, Rod doesn’t know he did so, but the words to his song “Reason To Believe,” one of my favorites from the 1960s, aptly describe what happened to Janel, a single woman (and subscriber to this newsletter) who found love on the Internet. Janel asks, “Why do smart women fall for ‘Mr. Romance’ types?”

We can’t quote song words without permission of the song writer. But the gist of what Stewart sings is that if he had listened long enough to his woman, he would have found a way to believe what she told him, even though all along he knew she was lying. And while her words made him cry, he continued to seek a reason to believe her, just as many intelligent older singles—like Janel— do today.

“I fell in love with a trucker,” Janel, from Ohio, said. (There’s nothing wrong with falling in love with a trucker; his profession had little to do with her taking hook, line and sinker.)

She blames him for what happened, but she was the gullible one. “He really knew how to work me. He called everyday, sometimes twice a day. He read poetry over the answering machine and email and I started calling him ‘Mr. Romance.’

“Friends felt I would never settle down and marry again. When the man from Alabama started to email and call, things changed overnight. When he sent me pictures of him, his house, his truck and a book about his family that the Chamber of Commerce in the little town in Indiana where he grew up (population 4,005) had produced, I was hooked.”

Red flags started to appear, but Janel, like Stewart, continued to find a reason to believe. This happens to older singles often, they so desperately want a loving relationship. He planned a trip to visit her but a health problem forced him to cancel. Then financial problems involving his truck caused another delay. When he ironed out his finances, he promised to take Janel on a three-week adventure to see the leaves turn in Cape Cod, “things that romance are made of,” Janel said, finding a reason to believe.

Then, a woman the trucker had dated tried to commit suicide. “Her family and the entire small town told him he’d better do right by her. He went to the hospital to wish her well. She wanted to come home with him so he took her home. Then he took her on the trip that was supposed to be my trip. I got dumped. He still calls; he tells me he took the wrong woman on the trip.”

And what’s mind boggling about this story? She fell in love with an image. She was going on a three-week trip with a stranger; she hadn’t met the guy in person. “Book smart and street dumb is what my dad would have said,” says Janel. We’ve written it before in this newsletter: Don’t fall in love with someone you haven’t met in person.

Why did she look so hard for a reason to believe? “I did not know how starved I was for romance,” Janel admits.

He still calls her once a week. “He tells me he is trying to get to see me, but I’m not holding my breath,” she added, sounding like she’s still trying to find a reason to believe.

She plans to keep her search for romance to within a 60-mile radius of her home. Let's hope that now she feels meeting someone in person before tumbling into love is a wiser strategy. And when that happens, she will have a good reason to believe.

A Widower Shares His Journey Coming Out of the Fog

Many of our subscribers are widows and widowers. Each has a different story and each goes through healing at a different pace. I respect and admire you for your tenacity and bravery. Some find writing about their ordeal helpful. Dave, a Michigan widower, is putting the finishing touches on a book that chronicles his painful steps after losing his beloved wife. I’ll keep you posted on when it’s published.

Another widower, Jerry, 69, Tampa, whose wife died in March, 2003, e-mailed this week with an update on his life: “After my wife passed, I couldn’t imagine going out with anyone else. But as the healing process took place, I realized I’m still on this planet so I might as well make the best of it. God left me here for some reason.”

Jerry shared the steps he took to get through the low state he found himself in:

  • “Accepted the help of a Hospice therapist which was offered immediately after my wife’s passing. Saw him at my house one hour a week for almost a year. Was able to pour my thoughts and feelings out to him; he was and a good sounding board
  • Read many books on death to try to understand what I was going through. The best was The Mourning Handbook by Helen Fitzgerald
  • Accepted the help of my daughter in settling all the bills associated with my wife’s death
  • Joined the YMCA to get fit. Went from 230 to now staying 200 to 205. Still work out 3-4 times per week
  • Subscribed to your newsletter, and became very aware that I am not the only one dealing with this change in my life
  • A number of months after it happened, started attending musical events and that’s where I met Patricia. Meeting her was a great stroke of luck
  • Finally, had to accept the fact that I did all I could to help my wife, but pancreatic cancer still won out
  • Started traveling again with Patricia. So far our trips have included visits to New Orleans, Sedona, AZ, Las Vegas, a cruise from Florida to Lisbon and spent July, August and half of September at my townhouse outside of London
  • Now reading, Embracing Uncertainty (Susan Jeffers). The book makes you aware that TODAY counts, the future is not guaranteed.”

Thanks to Jerry for having the guts to live life and to share his journey with us. When readers tell their stories, it helps others. As Jerry said, one of the biggest benefits is knowing that we aren’t alone in what we’re going through.

Reader Comments and Chat Room Info

Deb, "The fellow I was seeing for 3 years (sort of still am) has started to re-establish a friendship with his ex. They were married 24 years. I don't relish hearing 'Ex this' and 'Ex said that.' I don't say a word but it seems he's still hooked in, in some way. Your opinion?"

Response: Glad you have your antennae tuned in. He's obviously thinking of her. At some time, you might simply ask him what his intentions are. Protect yourself. Since this is going on after three years, I'd be keeping my eye open for new options.

Jackie, St. Louis: "How do I access the chat room many of our subscribers use? Is there a fee?"

Response: There are 397 members who have posted 5,749 messages, up considerably from last week. There is no fee. Simply click on the link below that says "Tomscolumn Chat Room" and sign up.

But please be aware of two things. If you do not want your real name used, when you sign up, enter a different name. And this is most important: if you do not want to have your inbox flooded with messages, when you sign up, under mail delivery, check the no e-mail box.

Internet Love in Santa Barbara

This week, finding love-after-50 moves to the West Coast. And in somewhat of a rarity, the story is shared by a man who had never written to a columnist, or anyone for that matter, about his dating or relationships.

Mike, age 53, Santa Barbara, said, “This is from a man who has dated a lot and takes things real slow and with caution. I was matched (by one of the major Internet dating services) with Carolyn, a 50-year-old who lives about 90 miles from my home.”

Mike drove to Carolyn’s city to have lunch and spend part of the day with her. The next evening, he returned to Carolyn’s city “met her again, and we spent time talking, laughing and getting to know each other. We were surprised by the same values, family backgrounds, etc., and how easy it was to be together.”

The next day was Father’s day. Carolyn drove to Mike’s home and met his boys. “They really took a liking to her,” said Mike. “When she left, we missed each other right away.”

For a slow-moving dating guy, Mike certainly changed his normal ways. Three days in a row, 90 miles apart?

“It was refreshing to meet someone who has little drama, who can laugh at herself, men in general, and the differences between men and women. This is a strong, independent woman who loves a man who treats women with respect.”

Mike says he and Carolyn know how fortunate they are to have met. “The nice thing about this relationship is that it has enhanced our lives. Time flies when we are together. I never believed that a relationship like this could be so comfortable and enjoyable.”

Mike added that he and Carolyn each prepared themselves to be better mates: “Both went to therapy long before meeting to learn about ourselves and what we could do to have a good relationship. We looked deep into ourselves to work out our issues in previous relationships. We have the same philosophy of appreciating what we have and not worrying about what we don’t have.”

They plan to marry. Carolyn will move, but will keep her home. Both work; Carolyn has a job lined up in Santa Barbara.

There are some simple, but important lessons in Mike and Carolyn’s story.

-People can meet via the Internet and have successful relationships

-Long-distance relationships can work, but it helps when the distance is easily covered by car, so people can often be together in each other’s environment

-Relationships are enhanced by mutual respect, similar interests and backgrounds, laughter and appreciation for each other

-Mid-life relationships can work when the partners are flexible and truly want a relationship. That’s important. Each must want a relationship. Life can be fun and easy, particularly when the “drama” is left behind

Without the Internet, Mike would still be walking the streets of Santa Barbara, looking for love in all of the wrong places.

Reader Comments and Tom's Responses

Jackie, St. Louis: "How do I access the chat room many of our subscribers use? Is there a fee?"

Response: There are 369 members who have posted 5,543 messages. There is no fee. Simply click on the link below that says "Tomscolumn Chat Room" and sign up. But please be aware of two things. If you do not want your real name used, when you sign up, enter a different name. And this is most important: if you do not want to have your inbox flooded with messages, when you sign up, under mail delivery, check the no e-mail box.

Never too Late for Love

I feel as if I know each of you and consider you as friends. I care what happens to you and how you are treated. Hence, when I heard from one of our readers that she has meant a man she is fond of, I was sincerely thrilled for her.

This romance, still in the early stages, happened because of the Internet. “He contacted me on a website I rarely look at, but eventually did, and I found three messages from him, including bio information and a gift with words, very appealing,” she wrote. “What I admired from the start was his persistence in contacting me and keeping his word about calling.”

“The ad he persisted in writing to started with ‘Local Granny seeks lover/companion with a splendid mind and sense of humor.’ Of course there was more, and it also included a statement about my actual age, that if a man was uncomfortable with it, not to write, but if he was a bit younger or a contemporary, do contact me.

“This man is a year younger, so we joke that he is dating an older woman and I am dating a younger man.”

Our woman friend is delighted, particularly because meeting him has been “after a long famine of unsuitable men I’ve met/dated.”

She and I have had many e-mail exchanges about romance at her age. At times, she was soured on men but she kept an open mind. And trust me, this is a very bright woman.

She’s optimistic, but realistic. “Let’s hope it works out and becomes a long-term commitment.”

What does she see in him? “He’s loving, caring, sexy and very bright. On my first visit to his apartment, he showed me an empty drawer for me to leave my things. He prepared brunch and showed consideration and kindness.”

Her message to the rest of us: “It is never too late to try—but I do have to emphasize that flexibility is essential, and a sense of humor absolutely necessary. Persistence (his), the Internet and coincidence brought us together.”

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for this relationship. After all, she is one of our own. It’s encouraging to hear of positive experiences like this one, particularly an Internet meeting, since Internet dating takes it on the chin often.

And in case you think you’re too old to find someone, she just celebrated her 76th birthday. And she didn’t lie about her age.

Catch and Release

I love hearing dating success stories involving people 55-plus. However, it seems for older singles there is often the word “but” attached to the descriptions of new-found romances, as is the case with Kathy, a single woman in her 60s.

“Peter is the most awesome man, the first I’ve considered marrying. I’ve been dating for six years and haven’t been attracted to anyone until now,” wrote Kathy, describing her eight-month relationship. “He sends me flowers, takes me to great places and sends the most wonderful cards with wonderful words written in them. Brings gifts etc.” And yet there is a “but” in Kathy’s romance.

She explained, “He floods me with all of those things and then I don’t see him for two or three weeks. He tells me, ‘I don’t know where this is going.’ To me he is a ‘catch and release’ guy—he is after the chase and once he gets what he wants, he releases his catch.”

Kathy says she isn’t a high-maintenance woman. She’d rather have the man than the material perks. “I don’t need to be taken to expensive places nor do I expect gifts. I’m just as happy having a picnic as an expensive dinner.”

Perhaps Peter showers her with gifts to compensate for not wanting to commit. In his defense, he commutes to and from work an hour each way five days a week. He lives a half hour from Kathy but in the opposite direction of his commute. To visit her and return home on a weekday night, he would have to log three hours of driving for the day.

Peter’s commute explains why he doesn’t see her much during the week. But sometimes he doesn’t see her on week-ends, although he calls and explains the reason he can’t see her—working around his house, doing chores, putting in faucets—those types of projects.

And there’s another “but.” “He tells me to ‘keep my options open.’” She asked for my opinion on their relationship,.

His comments about not knowing where the relationship is going and to keep her options open are a bit of a red flag. When a man makes open-ended, warning comments like those, he’s admitting he isn’t sure about the relationship. After eight months, it seems one would know whether one cares enough to be in a committed relationship. At least he is being honest.

Perhaps Peter is happy with the relationship “as is.” He likes Kathy, but doesn’t want to be tied down. That’s okay, as long as Kathy understands what she’s dealing with and doesn’t get her hopes set too high.

The other concern is this “catch and release” business. My pal Alex Rentziperis, who owns a barbershop in Dana Point, Calif., called the Sports Barber, is an avid fisherman. He believes vehemently in catch and release. “What’s that mean?” I asked Alex. His reply, “You toss them back—unhurt.” Kathy is taking steps to not be caught and tossed back.

“I date other men and don’t wait for him to call. I make sure I have something else going on and simply say, ‘I have other plans.’” But, she’s a bit puzzled, “I just can’t figure this guy out,” she says.

Of course she’s puzzled, who wouldn’t be? But, it also sounds as if she knows what’s going on and indeed, will keep her options open, until he stops fishing.

Responses to Where Are the Men?

Many of you responded to the newsletter two weeks ago about where are the men. Most agreed, it’s important to get out of the house and get active. Several of your comments follow.

Jerry, 68, a widower from Tampa, staying in London this summer, e-mailed, “Try musical events and exercise places. Women should do things they like to do, and chances are soon or later someone of like mind will come their way. At least this way they will be in circulation and that multiples their chances. I met Patricia (Jerry’s woman friend) when I attended a musical event at a bookstore in Tampa.”

One of our readers, age 59, judges a dog show each year where she’s always had a friendly chat “for hours” with the photographer. But this year, after a divorce, she wasn’t wearing her wedding ring. He noticed, and their conversations took on a different slant. They plan to start dating.

Kathy, San Jose, e-mailed, “I joined a singles supper club five years ago and have met the nicest men and have had no bad experiences yet.”

A Scottsdale, AZ., reader found the potential for romance right in her own yard, “After a year and a half of ongoing conversations with my landscape designer about ‘this and that’ related to my yard’s landscaping, he finally got over his shyness and hesitation to let me know he cares about me very much. We are both 54.”

Update. Why do men sometimes screw up? They scheduled a date. He was a no show and didn’t even call. Later told her he had an urgent family matter. “There is no excuse for not contacting me when he realized he couldn’t make it. I’m interviewing another landscape company tomorrow.” Not only did he lose her, he lost the job. Ouch!

Harry, Rochester, NY, knows of a place where the ratio of single men to single women is generally 50/50. “In upstate New York, we have ‘Singles Golf Clubs,’” said Harry. “All year long we have informal get-togethers such as movies, dinners and other types of outings. Plenty of seniors of both sexes attend. I’ve met women in their 60’s and 70’s who get out there and swing the club. No pressure to be a good player.”

Oh gosh. I hope all of our single women don’t pack their golf bags and move to upstate New York. Those winters are just too darned cold. Even Harry admits he’ll be moving to a warmer climate when he retires in a few months.

When Dr. M.P. Wylie, a relationship coach in Irvine, Calif. (www.JourneyToLove.com ), meets a happily married couple, she asks how they met. “The most-often response is on a match site (Internet). Then follows: at a party, wedding of a friend, some unexpected place such as a car wash, gas station (filling up a car), boat show and airport. Seldom do I hear that they meet at a singles event—go figure.”

Gordon, San Anselmo, CA., who oversees this website (www.menstuff.org ), said, “The best places to meet are in self-help type workshops, not just relationship workshops. While they usually have a few more women than men, the men who are there are usually interested in improving themselves.”

We end today’s newsletter with advice from three women. Mari says, “To find a good guy, women must throw away their armor. Most men don’t like women libbers or women who want to play mommy again, or who are angry at men. Show your feminine side, without losing your strength. Open your heart and soul and the good one’s will come on in. It worked for me.”

Joyce met her new beau online. She said, “Be specific in what you want and pursue the task as you would anything else that is important. Work hard and don’t waiver. Men are out there; you just have to be patient and consistent.” Joyce makes an important point. As we age, it takes work to get out and meet people. But, as Jerry said, hard work will multiply one’s chances of success.

Gail, Milwaukee, shared: “Having a get-active plan in place takes the pressure off and enables us to do what we enjoy, with people who are enjoying it as well. If we don’t meet that special someone, at least we’ve had fun.” Gail’s right, it beats sitting at home.

Sandy, Atlanta, e-mailed that she had read a blurb about an older married couple from New England. “He went out to clam (at a place he goes maybe once a year) and managed to lose his wedding ring. Fortunately, his wife was very kind and sympathetic. He went back out two years later to clam again. He found the ring on a clam shell!.”

Response from Tom: That story is a shoe in for the serendipity hall of fame.

“Cyber-seduced.” A new Internet buzzword?

“I’ve been cyber-seduced,” a 68-year-old West Coast woman wrote, possibly coining a new Internet dating buzzword.

She explained: “I’ve been on the internet for six months. I’m apparently attractive to men 20 years younger. I’ve developed a cyber-relationship with a man 51 who lives in Washington, D.C.”

Her comment triggers a red flag. Why would a man living 3,000 miles away be interested in a woman 17-years-older when most single men his age are searching for women 15 to 20 years younger? Because he’s involved in a scam aimed at older women.

Men run multiple personal ads in newspapers or on the Internet that sound like the ads were placed locally. When the women find out that these men live in other states, the men make excuses like “I travel there often,' or, 'I plan to move there' or “I knew you were there.” The men visit; the women buy into the scam. The following week, the men may visit women in another state.

More about the West Coast woman. She said, “We have never met and get this, I tell him things I probably would never say in person. Now we seem to even know what the other thinks and this is without seeing each other.”

Sounds like a page from the book Amazon Beaming, communicating via extra sensory perception. The Internet is like a shield. People aren’t talking face-to-face so they are more relaxed and tend to reveal personal information that you wouldn’t reveal facing each other.

This could be embarrassing if they eventually meet and she finds she doesn’t want to be with him. It could be financially costly as well, if she reveals personal asset information. And even dangerous if he’s a whacko.

She added, “He was supposed to come to Calif. Memorial Day weekend and guess what? His gall bladder burst.”

Another red flag. Hey, maybe his gall bladder did pop. But, I doubt it. And if it didn’t, give him credit for offering a creative excuse. But signs indicate that he is leading this senior woman on and when the call for reality came, he didn’t answer it.

She continued, “Never thought I would get involved emotionally with someone I have not met in person. I’m even turning other men away because of my fantasy man. We are both attracted to each other in a very intimate way. I always considered intimacy only for marriage but if I am not interested in marriage does that mean I can never have sex again in my life?”

When Mr. Gall Bladder man recovers enough to visit her, she’s planning to be intimate with him. She’s talked herself into it with his help; it’s all a part of his scam. She’s right about one thing: He’s a fantasy man, and that’s all.

Having sex with strangers puts people at risk for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, which can lead to AIDS.

Internet dating has created a new problem, particularly for seniors, who are lonely. They fall in love with an image, not with a real person. They want so desperately to love and be loved they create an image of a complete stranger in their minds and mold it into whatever fantasy they want. They think they’re in love, they’re ready for sex, they spend months cultivating the relationship without ever facing reality by seeing their image in the flesh.

And the problem with that? They’re leaving themselves open to heartbreak and financial risk. Not to mention the amount of time they’re wasting, and other opportunities they’re missing.

Let’s hope she comes to her senses before it’s too late. Yup, she’s been cyber-seduced all right, perhaps a more accurate term would be cyber-duped. No matter what you call it, it’s not good, and naïve older women need to avoid situations similar to hers.

Where Are The Men?

This week, two single women in their 50s gave me a tough assignment. They wanted a one-hour consultation with me to discuss places for them to go to meet men.

They said: “My friend and I are in our mid 50’s and single. Toni’s husband died four years ago and I divorced seven years ago after being married 27 years. We are both smart, financially stable (homeowners), take care of ourselves, and look a lot younger than our age.

“We are ready to find a nice guy but not having much luck. We’ve tried the Internet and going to bars (where we don’t find anyone and feel out of place). Men our age are looking for women in their 30’s and the one’s who do express interest are in their 70’s. Help! We need advice, which is where you come in. We want to meet with you in person and have you give us pointers on finding nice, financially and emotionally stable men.”

(Often, I consult over the phone or Internet because the people live in other parts of the country).

I nearly turned down the consulting session because what they were asking is about as tough of an assignment as it gets: helping single women find available, non-married, single men.

We met at a deli where the considerate owner closed early so we could speak speak privately. These were two nicely dressed, high quality and attractive women. Friendly, pleasant personalities, intelligent—qualities single men should be looking for.

I began with a disclaimer of sorts: “There is no place in the United States that I’m aware of where available older single men go to meet single women close to their age and where the number of men and women is relatively equal.”

It’s important that middle-age and senior women understand this truism so they won't drive themselves nuts trying to find those places.

The three of us exchanged ideas and came up with an action plan. When women ask me where they should go—to what bars, resorts, hangouts, pool halls, gin mills or nightclubs—to meet men, I tell them I know of none. People who hang out there generally aren’t relationship material.

What we agreed on for the two of them was this:

  • Continue to use the Internet but keep expectations in check. You may not meet anyone suitable, but then again, it only takes meeting the right one
  • Get involved in activities you enjoy and don’t worry about whether you’re going to meet a man. One of the women said she was interested in sailing and boating. I told her there was a boating club at Dana Point Harbor, which is one half mile from where we were sitting. Many singles belong. She will check into it

The other said she loved to dance. We went over a list of the places for her that sponsor dances

  • One said she meets lots of new people at work in her role as a corporate trainer. And while dating at work has its drawbacks, she still will have her antennae out
  • Both agreed that instead of “hitting the bars” on Friday nights, they will attend presentations at an active Barnes and Noble bookstore in our county where there are seminars every night. I see people sitting by themselves sipping coffee in there each time I look in
  • They agreed they needed to get out more and become more active. They promised to make a list of other activities each enjoys. When they need a little support, they will attend functions together

Had I helped them? As best I could. We can’t create quality men out of the air. But if these two women implement at least some of their ideas, and keep wearing their radiant smiles, there’s a good chance that in the future they'll have stories of romance to share.

Comment of note:

George, Arkansas: “If you’ve got the ‘cools,’ it doesn’t matter how old you are to date younger women.” When I pressed him for his definition of “cools,” he said, “The insight and judgment to discriminate the fine points.” Which means—absolutely nothing.

Men React to Women Who Don’t Want Marriage

I knew I was on thin ice with single men when I wrote in last week’s newsletter that only one of 52 older single women I polled wanted to marry or cohabitate.

One opinionated man wrote, “In response to those women who claim to want their independence. They are full of crap. Most ladies I know would give their eye teeth for a solid relationship and would want to live with the man and not just date.”

He added, “I usually stay away from ladies who espouse the sort of philosophy found in your so-called survey and frankly I am beginning to realize that many American women have their priorities all screwed up. That is why I often look to meeting women from places other than the USA.

“I am no wimp but many of your lady respondents intimate that they want a man who they can call for a date and he’ll come running. Those ladies should stick to walking their dogs. That is the only place where they will be able to truly control the situation.”

Bill, Laguna Beach, Ca., e-mailed, “One thing is for sure, you have discovered 52 women who won’t hear from me. It’s the dreaded “C” word: commitment. I sense the inability in these women to eventually experience implicit trust. Sooo, I guess confirmed bachelors have a lot more bachelorettes than most of us realized.”

From Rochester, NY, Harry, wrote, “Sounds like the women are thinking like the men now. That’s what I’m looking for. Someone to do things with a couple of times a week, but at the end of the day, she goes to her place and I to my home. Well, once in a while maybe an overnight!” (Whew, I’m glad he added that).

Ed, San Francisco, said, “It warms my heart that there are women out there that think the way I do. Now how in heck do I meet them?”

Relating his experience, Bob, Green Valley, AZ, e-mailed: “Ending a 41-year marriage with, ‘I need to pick up some things at the store,’ my wife departed—for good.” But, Bob has bounced back. “It’s been four years and my divorce is final. Now I’m seeking another lady with whom I can ‘walk arm-in-arm into the sunset.’” Note to Bob from Tom: Don’t let her go to the store without you.

An El Paso, TX, man, Bill, wants to remarry: “I tried the ‘weekend playmate’ twice with two very nice women and didn’t like it. I felt like a disposable razor that could be tossed away anytime. I want a stable relationship 24/7. Living alone is not for me. It gets depressing.”

In referring to relationships without marriage or live-in status, another man said, “These relationships may endure for a long time but they are by nature shallow and limited. I wouldn’t count on most of these women to be there for you through thick and thin. If you became seriously sick, they would like to be there for you but they have already made plans to visit Russia.”

I love it when the men respond. They have such a way with words.

* * *

Note from Tom: Since last week’s newsletter, the total responses to the question “Do women want to remarry or live with a man?” have increased to 123—109 from women and 14 from men. And the results are starting to balance out. Nearly as many women who said they do not want to remarry have since come forth and said they would like to marry. We will continue coverage on this topic in future newsletters as long as there is an interest, which there seems to be.

As one women put it, “Why would I subscribe to a Finding Love After 50 newsletter if I didn’t want to fall in love and live with a man?” I really couldn’t argue the point with her.

How Long to Date After a Loss

The responses from last week's newsletter about the widower John stuck in dating neutral triggered so many wise reader comments about how long one should wait before dating after a relationship ends I wanted to share some of them with you.

Phyl Brumfield, Anaheim Hills, Ca., said, "Before saying 'hello' to someone new, you have to say 'goodbye' to that person who has been your best friend, companion and lover for many years.

"That doesn't mean you won't think of them, still love them and of course miss them, but life is for the living. Go out and enjoy."

Connie Phillips, a Jackson High School (Jackson, Mi.) classmate of mine, living in North Carolina, e-mailed, "If you jump into a relationship before you heal, you may end up with a heel! I did that and spent the next 22 years looking for the courage to 'get out.' By then I was 60 instead of 38 and the odds of meeting my super love had diminished greatly."

Sound advice came from Judy Anderson, Hacienda Heights, Ca.: "Dating won't heal the wounds but time will. It's not easy because loneliness can get the best of us."

Judy said she's met some nice men on the Internet who weren't "mentally available" and unable to put the energy into a relationship. "Let yourself mourn your loss ? cry, yell, scream take long walks/drives, learn meditation or whatever helps you get in touch with your feelings. Alone time is healthy too, learn to enjoy your own company."

C.J. Turenne, St. Paul, Mn., e-mailed, "I've been on the dating scene for three years and have found most men haven't healed from the loss of their partner, aren't ready for dating and are trying to find the same lady as their partner."

Pearl Hedlund, 67, San Antonio met her husband George online three years ago. They corresponded for months before meeting in person. "People are especially eager to fill the void if the relationship was great. We all want to continue being happy. If people are patient, true friends will come along," said Pearl.

An Atlanta widow named Peggy, 57, shared mistakes she's made: "I met an old friend 14 months after the death of my husband of 27 years and married six months later. It was heaven for 18 months and then everything I said or did was criticized including my old job, family and friends.

"We had moved to another state so I felt isolated. We are in the midst of a divorce and I'm going to lose a lot financially since I co-mingled assets and he didn't. I thought I was proving my commitment."

Reader Ellen wrote, "Dating before you're ready isn't fair to you or to the person you date. I've been seeing a widower who is still madly in love with his wife. She died two years ago and he can't let me in. I have to start looking for another close friend."

Lesson for all: Don't rush dating after a loss and don't co-mingle assets.

Reader Comments

Pat, In what I've seen at gatherings, is that it's the men who are newly widowed who are interested in meeting women, dating and going out. The men who have been on their own for years often don't want to get involved or serious with anyone. If a gal wants to meet and date a man, she should get to know a man who is single a month or so, and participate in activities where he'll be. Response: In a month or so after he becomes single? That's why so many show up at his doorstep with casserole dishes.

Elaine, Mission Viejo, Ca., "I've reached the point in my life where I feel healed from the loss of a long term relationship. I wasn't feeling totally sure about it until I read your story (last week). I'm going out there with a whole new attitude." Response: Let us know how it goes.

Lying to get one’s foot in the door

Two weeks ago, we ran a column about whether women should lie about their age in their Internet profiles. While the majority of people responding said no, there were many people who said, when not done to be deceitful, it is a wise strategy.

Sheryl , 44, Mission Viejo, Calif., said, “During the five years that I met men on the Internet, over 95 percent lied about their age by five to ten years. I never lied about my age.”

Nine months ago, Sheryl met a man online whose profile said he was 46. When they met, he admitted he was 52. Sheryl said, “I wasn’t happy when he revealed the truth. I wanted to find a man in his 40s, closer to my age. I would never have responded if he had listed his true age. He told me he did it because many women wouldn’t respond to his ad when he listed his true age.”

Now, Sheryl is happy he fibbed. “I might have missed out on the best thing that ever happened to me because of a few years age difference.”

Reader Lynn has changed her mind about lying. “What’s a woman to do to meet a guy? Men see a woman’s age and they just go by. All I need is to get my foot in the door to have a chance.”

Should women lie? One woman said, “Only if they want to receive a response! Besides, most of us don’t tell the truth about how many men have been in our past, how much money is in the bank or how much we weigh. I consider age in the same category as these other ‘social qualifiers,’”

Verne, 50, Wellsville, NY, met a “fabulous woman.” She is 49, rather than 44 as listed in her ad. I had read your article about women lying about their age one hour before I talked to her for the first time. She brought the subject up out of guilt, without knowing anything about your column. The age thing added to our connection.”

Is lying to get one’s foot in the door being dishonest, or just being smart? Most people admit they will fess up when meeting in person. But major lying won’t work. If someone looks ten-years older than advertised, the strategy will backfire and waste each person’s time.

Many disapprove of lying. Nancy, Mount Clements, Mich., says, “A ‘lie’ is still a ‘lie,’ even if one is a younger-looking liar.”

Cydne, Seattle, says, “Women who attempt to improve their ‘odds’ of finding a true love by fudging their age should know that the men they might attract with the ‘right’ numbers are just number players. Truth is the only way to go.”

Herb Vest, the CEO of www.True.com , an online matching service with three million members, said in an interview with me yesterday, “If you lie, you have lost trust, the main element in a relationship.” Before new members can communicate with other members on www.True.com, the company conducts a criminal investigation and a marital status investigation to screen out felons and married people. “About ten percent of our applicants don’t pass these investigations,” Vest added.

As long as lying about one’s age is just a “social qualifier”—an attempt to get a foot in the door—and not a malicious act of deceit, some feel it’s okay. But, that’s up to each person to decide.

Reader comments

Dan, “Your account of the trip (Puerto Vallarta) and the relationships among everyone was informative, insightful and humorous.” Response: The 5 and ½ hour bus ride wasn’t as humorous.

Marilyn, Walpole, Mass., “You story about the long distance relationship last week remind me to remember to never say never.”

Sally, “How can I get a trace on someone I have been dating for nine years? I do not know where he lives, his telephone number or where he works. ” Response: I am planning a newsletter on checking a person’s background before dating him or her. But after nine years? As Herb Vest said when I mentioned this to him in the interview, “That’s pathetic.”

Single women involved with men who won’t commit

This e-mail arrived yesterday from a woman I will call Becky. She wants and needs help.

“I am 55; my guy (58) left me after 12 years. We were not married, not even living together, but we spent every weekend together and vacationed together for all of that time. To complicate things, he is a doctor and I was his office manager so we were together every day. I loved the whole setup and I thought he did too.

“One day, out of the blue, he announced he ‘needed to move on’ and dumped me. I had no warning. The evening before on the phone he told me he loved me, as he did every night. He never told me he wanted something else, someone else.

“The shock hit me hard. I have been in therapy for 14 months since this happened. I can’t get over the pain and agony of this hurt.

“He was ill during our relationship and I literally saved his life. He had a heart attack his doctor misdiagnosed as the flu. I got him the hospital and was told by docs there that in another half hour he would have died. How can he forget all this? I loved him with all of my heart and never let him down.

“His complaints with me were (1) I was too jealous (He would never commit to a forever situation with me) and (2) I smoke, but never smoked in his apartment or car.”

And then she wrote, “I need help. What can you do?”

I can’t do much for Becky, except listen and encourage her to seek help. Why can’t I assist her?

Because the damage was done over a 12-year period and only time and perhaps some therapy will heal her wounds.

But I see where Becky made a mistake based on her statement, “He would never commit to a forever situation with me.”

She loved him and slept and traveled with him knowing he would never commit, not even to living together. That made her vulnerable to exactly what happened.

When a man is reaping the benefits of a woman’s companionship, but isn’t willing to commit to her, she is opening herself up to getting dumped. All single women should be aware of this possibility with non-committing men.

Hindsight is easy, but what Becky should have done was develop a life for herself outside of her relationship with him. But she didn’t and now she can’t extricate herself from the pain.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again. A woman hangs on to a guy for years and years. Perhaps he even makes promises about the future. And then one day, he moves on.

If a committed relationship is important to you, don’t stick with a man hoping some day he will change. Chances are he won’t. At the very least, develop other interests so if he does leave, you have a backup plan in place.

So, Becky, while you are attempting to heal, why not take the opportunity to kick the smoking habit as well? You will get healthy in more than one way and make yourself more attractive to a new man.

Defining the word "Chemistry"

Recently, I published an article containing this comment from a widower: "I think the Internet is not for me when it comes to meeting women. I prefer to meet the person first to see if there may be chemistry between us."

An innocent enough statement, I thought. But, the word "chemistry" triggered strong responses from women.

Shirley Budhos, New York City, e-mailed, "I find the word 'chemistry' loathsome, because it's adolescent and dishonest.

"Men have often used the expression 'chemistry' and I resent it. Somehow, they seem to think that they make all of the choices. Love affection, goodwill, kindness, friendship, all those things are as important, and that romantic, superficial, instantaneous spark may occur in a different way now that we are seasoned adults."

Jennifer Marks, Orange, said, "Chemistry is a combination of physical and emotional/mental attraction between people. When you first meet someone, each person senses the physical aspect of the other, but the emotional/mental aspect isn't known yet.

"Some men make the mistake of relying solely on the physical attraction. Men who have never been married or who have had several failed relationships often do this. They reduce 'chemistry' to sex appeal alone. These men go from one short-term, disappointing relationship to another."

From Tallahassee, Fl., Belinda Jarrard e-mailed, "I hate it when someone is looking for 'chemistry.' When a man says 'chemistry' it means only one thing. I've been on too many first dates that went nowhere because the man didn't feel 'chemistry.'

"You can talk with someone for months on the Internet and on the phone and suddenly when you meet them in person, that special chemistry you had together vanishes."

Edie Dickinson, Raleigh, NC, said, "As a woman, I feel that chemistry is physical, emotion, etc. That woman 'thing' about connecting on many levels. Physical chemistry is important but not the end-all be-all."

Men rarely go into as much detail as women when defining "chemistry." Last week, I asked one of my single male friends - two unmarried women were seated with us - what the word meant to him. Without hesitation, he answered, "It means you want to take someone to bed."

Not all men define "chemistry" so bluntly or narrowly. Most men view "chemistry" as wanting to be with a person because you have common interests, backgrounds or goals. A feeling that "We easily converse and can talk for hours."

But men also feel that physical attraction must be a part of that mix. Some, like my friend above, get the cart before the horse.

Regardless of a person's definition of "chemistry," both sexes tend to agree that in the long run, without it, a relationship will lack spark.

"Chemistry is the 'word.' The guy may be rich, handsome, etc., but forget it if you don't click," said Kathleen Tinch, Aliso Viejo.

Anna Baker, 49, Talent, Or., a widow, e-mailed, "Chemistry is essential for me, and a certain amount of intensity is also attractive."

And from Turkey, on her sailboat, Gwen Bylund e-mailed, "Chemistry is as important in older age as it was in one's teens."

Differences in the definition of the word "chemistry" remind us of why middle-age compatibility between women and men is so elusive.


Bern Grucza, Elma, NY., "You're a great spokesperson for our generation of 'retreads.'" Response: Retreads? Hey Bern, we're just getting started.

Sandi Benson, Tustin, "It isn't only the widow/widower who needs to heal after the loss of a spouse, we all need to heal after we've been in a long-term relationship." Response: For many, a breakup is just as devastating.

Sally Mumford, Farmington, Ct., "I read your book, 'Finding Love After 50: How to Begin. Where to Go. What to Do.' Much of what you write is common sense; There are a great deal of road blocks for seniors and your book was most helpful."

How Long to Date After a Loss

The responses from last week's newsletter about the widower John stuck in dating neutral triggered so many wise reader comments about how long one should wait before dating after a relationship ends I wanted to share some of them with you.

Phyl Brumfield, Anaheim Hills, Ca., said, "Before saying 'hello' to someone new, you have to say 'goodbye' to that person who has been your best friend, companion and lover for many years.

"That doesn't mean you won't think of them, still love them and of course miss them, but life is for the living. Go out and enjoy."

Connie Phillips, a Jackson High School (Jackson, Mi.) classmate of mine, living in North Carolina, e-mailed, "If you jump into a relationship before you heal, you may end up with a heel! I did that and spent the next 22 years looking for the courage to 'get out.' By then I was 60 instead of 38 and the odds of meeting my super love had diminished greatly."

Sound advice came from Judy Anderson, Hacienda Heights, Ca.: "Dating won't heal the wounds but time will. It's not easy because loneliness can get the best of us."

Judy said she's met some nice men on the Internet who weren't "mentally available" and unable to put the energy into a relationship. "Let yourself mourn your loss ? cry, yell, scream take long walks/drives, learn meditation or whatever helps you get in touch with your feelings. Alone time is healthy too, learn to enjoy your own company."

C.J. Turenne, St. Paul, Mn., e-mailed, "I've been on the dating scene for three years and have found most men haven't healed from the loss of their partner, aren't ready for dating and are trying to find the same lady as their partner."

Pearl Hedlund, 67, San Antonio met her husband George online three years ago. They corresponded for months before meeting in person. "People are especially eager to fill the void if the relationship was great. We all want to continue being happy. If people are patient, true friends will come along," said Pearl.

An Atlanta widow named Peggy, 57, shared mistakes she's made: "I met an old friend 14 months after the death of my husband of 27 years and married six months later. It was heaven for 18 months and then everything I said or did was criticized including my old job, family and friends.

"We had moved to another state so I felt isolated. We are in the midst of a divorce and I'm going to lose a lot financially since I co-mingled assets and he didn't. I thought I was proving my commitment."

Reader Ellen wrote, "Dating before you're ready isn't fair to you or to the person you date. I've been seeing a widower who is still madly in love with his wife. She died two years ago and he can't let me in. I have to start looking for another close friend."

Lesson for all: Don't rush dating after a loss and don't co-mingle assets.

Reader Comments

Pat, In what I've seen at gatherings, is that it's the men who are newly widowed who are interested in meeting women, dating and going out. The men who have been on their own for years often don't want to get involved or serious with anyone. If a gal wants to meet and date a man, she should get to know a man who is single a month or so, and participate in activities where he'll be. Response: In a month or so after he becomes single? That's why so many show up at his doorstep with casserole dishes.

Elaine, Mission Viejo, Ca., "I've reached the point in my life where I feel healed from the loss of a long term relationship. I wasn't feeling totally sure about it until I read your story (last week). I'm going out there with a whole new attitude." Response: Let us know how it goes.

Single Man Stuck in Neutral

I received this e-mail from a 55-year-old single man named John: "I have no clue how to find and meet single women. I'm shy and have missed women's passes that hit square in the head. Do you have a list of activities for singles?"

I mentioned John's comment in one of my newspaper columns a while ago. Two women asked to be introduced to him. He said, "I did meet the two ladies over a cup of coffee. They were nice but we didn't get together again."

John explained: "I think the Internet is not for me when it comes to meeting people. I prefer to meet the person first to see if there may be chemistry between us."

Like John, most people dating later in life prefer to avoid blind dates, and meet the person first before going out on a big-time date.

But how feasible is that? The biggest problem facing older singles is finding anybody to date -- a warm body, a person of the opposite sex who isn't bogged down by excess baggage. Meeting a person first to see if chemistry exists isn't a luxury older many singles have.

Besides, isn't that the purpose of having a cup of coffee with a stranger? To see if you both would like to get together again? Neither invests much more than an hour of time and a coffee date is cheapter than lunch or dinner.

"How do I meet someone?" is the most frequently-asked question older singles ask.

My answer: "Any way you can." That means getting out of the house, being active, having outside interests, and a willingness to meet new people.

I saw a flicker of hope for John in his most recent e-mail: "Talking to these ladies over the Internet and meeting them has made me a little more comfortable in taking that next step, asking a stranger out on a date. I may be over fifty, but I have never asked a woman out that I didn't at least know casually. There's a first time for everything."

As I said, a flicker of hope but not much more.

One of the women John met suggested another problem: he hasn't healed enough from the loss of his spouse. He's not mentally available to date yet.

When relationships end -- particularly those of a long duration and deep love -- people need time to heal and become whole again before dating. Too often, people rush to fill the void, find someone, move quickly and then find the memories of past loves resurface and ruin the new relationship.

So, a couple of lessons here. First, older singles who want to meet a mate need to get out and be willing to connect with new people (and go out on blind dates).

Second, people with broken hearts need to mend before venturing out into the dating world. However, going out with friends is important. Don't expect to find love soon after losing a mate.

There's hope for John, and all of us.

Widows Give Their Opinions

In the previous newsletter, we raised questions about widows and widowers dating. Many widows responded. Here's what a few of them said.

Kathy Boyd, 59, Las Vegas, a widow for two years, e-mailed: "I work full time as a registered nurse, working for 38 years, looking forward to retiring in less than four years. I plan to move back to Ocala, Fla."

Kathy has a variety of interests and things she likes to do. "Being by yourself sure is lonely as hell. It's hard to meet anyone nice in Las Vegas. Most of the men my age are into the swinging lifestyle. I have told many guys that HIV is on the upswing with seniors, they don't seem to care."

Kathy added that "No one seems to be looking for a nice girl who is strong, independent, financially and emotionally secure. I'm not looking for a sugar daddy," she said.

Linda says men who contacted her were scary Another 59-year-old widow (for five years) said that she doesn't date. Linda Maib, of Orange County Ca., said, "Although I've done the internet dating, eharmony.com, etc., the 'scientifically' matched men didn't even bother to contact me. The men that did contact me were 'scary' and usually much older.

I've come to the conclusion that men want younger women, not women my age. I'm sure there is an exception to the rule but I have all but given up on ever getting married again, let alone having a date."

Lauren's four-year rule A women named Lauren wrote, "I shall stay away from a widower if it has been under four years since the passing of his loved one."

Lauren dated a widower of two years. "He wanted everything in the beginning, was moving very fast, and then it all fell apart as he went back to grieving her. He would come out of it now and then, but had his moments especially holidays and birthdays.

"Widows and widowers who had good marriages make excellent partners but they must be done grieving. Lauren added that if a widower leaves his wife's things in the bedroom, he's not willing to let go.

Many children inheritance hungry. Joanie Webb e-mailed, "I have been a rep for senior health plans for ten years, and many children are inheritance hungry. They look at their parent's new spouse as taking away their future. Children shouldn't count on their parents for money."

Shell wonders if she's being too picky. Shell, Dover, Ohio e-mailed. She's been a widow of four years and is only 47. She's been dating a 52-year-old widower of only one year. "His children still live at home -- ages 24 and 21 and there are pictures everywhere of his wife, I'm not just talking about a few, all over the place and in the bedroom there is a giant picture of he and his wife on their wedding day. Plus, on her side of the bed, the night stand is like this little shrine that has been set up."

Shell's concerned because the widower wants her to move in. She says she's not jealous but adds: "I just don't want to live with a ghost."

Every situation is different. The important thing, as Lauren said, is that people need time to grieve and heal before trying to bring a new person into their lives. How long will that take? It all depends.

Anatomy of a Broken Relationship

Woman, age 57, wants to know what happened.

Finding the right mate later in life is difficult. A 57-year-old woman we will call Sue is trying to uncover why she was dumped by a 63-year-old “very nice gentleman” she met on the dating website eharmony.com. Thanks to Sue for having the guts to share her story with us.

Sue said after meeting the man in January, they e-mailed daily and talked on the phone every night. “We dated every weekend and were very attracted to each other. I cooked dinner for this man, sent him home with leftovers and we went out too. Our time together was always enjoyable.”

And then one day, he simply stopped calling her.

Sue provided specifics about the relationship:

  • “We never slept together as we both agreed to save that for marriage.”
  • “This man made it plain from the start he wanted to take it slow before getting into a serious relationship.”
  • “This divorced man was on a few dating sites and stated in them that he was searching for a mate.”
  • “His grown up children liked me, his grandchildren liked me and his dog liked me.”
  • “I believe he is afraid of me because he likes me too much and is very scared.”
  • “I have been single 21 years – a relationship here and there but this last time I took a 6-year leave from dating to discover me and try and correct those insecurities I had.”
  • “I am a very giving person (gave him a nice watch in his Easter basket). Perhaps I did too much.”

Sue is sad. She says she knows not to call him and wanted my opinion so she won’t make the same mistake again.

Usually I don’t give relationship advice, but since Sue asked, I shared my thoughts with her. I suggested she should call him or his children, to ensure that nothing bad happened to him and to ask for an explanation. I feel he at least owes her that. After all, she sent him home with leftovers and a watch, and his dog liked her.

But I also saw red flags. First, the guy said he wanted to take it slow but on other dating sites he posted that he is seeking a mate. Translation: He was a game player and used her for meals and gifts while he searched for a more perfect match.

Next, Sue’s theory that he likes her too much and is scared doesn’t wash. When men like women too much, they usually let women know, often to the point of coming on too strong, which women don’t appreciate. When a man says he is scared, that is simply an excuse.

Note to subscriber Barbi: The above comment about being scared applies to the story you posted on our Yahoo! Groups message board.

Also, Sue felt she might have been too nice to him. Being nice to people is Sue’s nature. If he didn’t appreciate her gestures, he likely just wasn’t into loving her. Or, maybe he didn’t like the brand of watch he got in his Easter basket.

And there is always the possibility that he felt she cared too much for him and was trying to go too fast.

Lastly, Sue said they were attracted to each other. Maybe he wanted to have sex but didn’t wanted the marriage part of the agreement so he went looking elsewhere for intimacy outside of marriage.

Assuming nothing bad happened to him, I think it boiled down to he just didn’t care enough about Sue. Her mistake was getting involved with the wrong man for her. Sometimes when we trust and give, we get burned.

Hopefully, Sue will get over her sadness and feelings for him, dust herself off, learn from the experience and not take another six year leave from dating. At our age, we don’t have that kind of time.

Sue, thanks for having the courage to share.

A Mexico – California Long-Distance Relationship

Carm Lodise, 65, Santa Barbara, Calif., was looking forward to his retirement last December. He started preparing years before when he purchased a home in Barra de Navidad, on the west coast of Mexico, and that’s where he planned to move in January, 2005. It would be easy to do, he was a single man with few complications in his life.

Sally Derevan, late 50s, Atascadero (near Santa Barbara) a retired single woman, had heard about Carm, but had never met him. A mutual friend insisted on introducing them, which is one of the best ways for older singles to meet.

“Why would I want to meet a guy who is moving to Mexico?” Sally asked. She has two dogs who are like children to her and is building a small retirement home on property she’s owned for years so she’s committed to staying put. The prospect of a long-distance relationship held no interest for Sally. But, she agreed to meet him anyway.

Before Carm moved in January, they dated and became fond of each other; an Atascadero-Barra de Navidad long-distance relationship was created.

Carm and I went to Jackson High School in Jackson, Mich., together. Over the years, we’ve stayed in touch. When I told him that my partner Greta and I were vacationing for a week in Puerto Vallarta, he invited us to come to meet Sally, who was visiting him for the first time in Mexico. Barra de Navidad is approximately 150 miles south of Puerto Vallarta.

Carm told us which bus to take. I inadvertently purchased tickets for the local bus instead of the express—big mistake. Our trip took five and a half hours and stopped every time anyone flagged it down. Greta was a great sport, she insisted stopping often and seeing the little towns was “a great experience.”

When we got off the bus, Carm’s 1995 Chrysler Lebaron convertible, one of the few in Mexico I would guess, was waiting for us on a dusty street in the heart of town.

Sally’s visit has created a dilemma for her. She didn’t know what to expect, whether she’d even enjoy Mexico or not. But, she said she has fallen in love with it and with Carm. If it weren’t for her dogs and other obligations, she’d consider joining him there.

She introduced us to “Mr. Goat,” who is tied up in the field across from Carm’s house. The goat bays several times per hour. Sally pointed out that not all American retirees would be happy living in a place like Barra de Navidad—one needs a sense of adventure—but she feels she could handle it.

Carm does not live in an American community. He lives in a section called the barrio; he’s the only “gringo” on the street. Greta and I experienced first hand a local happening: Before dawn, six days a week, a garbage truck comes down the street blasting its loudspeakers with lively Mexican music reminding residents to place their garbage cans out.

Carm mentioned that Barra de Navidad isn’t exactly a place where singles would meet other singles either. He said it’s possible, but he wouldn’t recommend singles move there hoping to meet a mate.

What will become of this long-distance relationship? For now, Carm and Sally plan to alternate visits. It was refreshing to see how compatible and enamored they are together.

Carm spared us a return bus trip. The four of us piled into his convertible like teenagers and drove through the Mexican countryside back to Puerto Vallarta. We stopped at Chico’s Paradise, a restaurant built on rocks and located above a river for the finest guacamole I’ve ever tasted.

Carm and Sally said they would keep us updated on their long distance relationship plans.

Women who look younger than their age

Often, I hear comments from women who think they look younger than their age about the frustration of listing their true ages on dating websites. Here are three I received last week.

One said, “My problem is that I don’t look or act 52—I have had three plastic surgeons tell me that not only did I not need surgery, but that I don’t look a day over 35. What can I do? If I put my real age on the dating site, men are not going to connect with me. I list my age as 41.”

A 67-year-old wrote, “I look at least 10 years younger and have been told so by almost everyone I know. When I started internet dating at 63, I had to give my age as 62 because so many men over 60 stated in their profile that they only wanted women under 62. If I want any responses at all, I must take five years off my age.”

A third said, “I’m 62, though I look and feel at least 10 years younger. I lie about my age on my personal profiles and say I’m 58 or 59. I get very few responses except from men in their 70s or 25-35 year olds looking for a sexual experience.

“I find this whole ‘age’ thing with women very depressing. It’s like you are on the scrap heap after 55. Our Western society is very shallow. Men do ‘judge a book by its cover.’”

Mason Grigsby, co-author of Love At Second Sight. Playing the Midlife Dating Game, www.newhorizonpressbooks.com explains the myth about older men dating younger women:

“Older women should know that we older men (even those in great shape and vibrant) can’t get women 20 years younger. Despite what women think. The exceptions are rich, powerful, famous men, but any other older/younger relationships are flukes—they may happen but are not the norm.

“The owner of a leading national relationship organizations calls the men that sign up and ask for younger women as ‘the delusional ones.’”

Mason continued, “I’m 67, look 55, play tennis and golf five days a week and I can’t get a younger woman if I wanted one. The comment I frequently get, should I happen to run across a younger woman at a bar or other social event is: ‘excuse me sir,’ as they maneuver around me. Women should understand that ‘wanting a younger woman and getting one’ are two different things—don’t think these men are being successful.”

Should women lie about their age? I don’t think so. Instead, they should avoid the “delusional” flakes who want to date younger women.

Should women avoid using the Internet to meet men? Christine Stieber, an internet dating expert, www.The-Perfect-Day.com , doesn’t think so, “In my business as an event planner, I have planned four weddings for couples who met on the Internet. Their first communication with each other, for one or both, was during their very first time using the Internet for dating.”

Perhaps women are relying too heavily on the Internet as a place to meet men. They should include other ways to meet men in their marketing mix. Lying about one’s age is going to catch up with the person eventually.

Comments and responses:

Tom, no city: "Do you really feel you give men and women an equal opportunity to express their opinions? I've sent you some of the most interesting comments concerning the differences in men and women and you've blown them off. I feel you have to cater to a woman's point of view to be successful in your business.

"The only way you would give a man any ink in your column is if he was a wuss. I've been single for many years and for every late marriage that claims utopia there are ten that act like they've settled. Testosterone in your column is as rare as a tooth in a hen."

Response: Sometimes people send in comments that they think are interesting but I don't, or I find them offensive, or I simply don't have room to include them. Most of the comments I receive are from women; men don't tend to write. So, women get most of the ink. I used your comment this time because I liked your comparison at the end.

Everyone Needs Space

I never know from where an idea for a column may emerge. Sometimes, it’s simply in the middle of the night. Often, it’s from a reader’s question or opinion. But I never expected today’s topic to come to me in the offices of the Fidelity National Title Company in Santa Rosa in Northern California.

A week ago Monday, I was seated in Fidelity’s meeting room signing escrow papers on two pieces of property. The first was on the sale of the home where my mom has lived for 27 years. The second was on the purchase of a new home to where Mom is moving.

Lisa Witt, a Fidelity escrow officer, looked at me curiously and said, “Why is your mom—at age 94—moving to a new home?” I said, “Because she wants more space. She needs a second bedroom where her kids can stay when they visit and more space for her vast collections of books, art and seashells.”

“Everybody, single or married, needs space, time alone, breathing room, in one form or another,” said, Nancy Devoto, my realtor from McBride Realty. “I’ve been married to Bill for ten years; he and I appreciate the need for each other to have our own space from time to time.”

Nancy and Bill have a vacation home in Clear Lake, an hour north of Santa Rosa. “Bill takes a break and goes there for three or four days by himself just to get away. The time apart makes us appreciate each other more.”

Lisa added, “I’m a single mom. When I’ve had it up to here with the pressures from work and from my kids, you’d better give me my ‘space.’ My fiancé lives a few hours away from me, he figures that’s barely enough distance between us when he knows I need my solitude. It keeps our relationship fresh.”

Couples look forward to retirement. But they suddenly find themselves thrown together around the clock. If they forget to give each other space, after about a week, they’ll drive each other nuts.

When people tell me they’ve met a new beau, and they’re as inseparable as magnets, I wonder how long it will take for one of them to seek space.

I spent six days with Mom, helping to get her packed, moved and settled into her new home. We were together face-to-face several hours a day. We needed both escrows to close simultaneously for the deal to work, our buyer was iffy. It was a pressure cooker. Nerves got on edge, patience ran thin. We were both tired. Even though we are mother and son, we each needed a little independent space to get through the week.

On Saturday, with Mom successfully moved in, I flew home. As the plane approached John Wayne Airport, it occurred to me that my partner Greta and I had been away from each other for six days. That was enough “space” for me, I couldn’t wait to hug her.

We all need to remember the importance of giving ourselves, our partners and the people we spend large amounts of time with, plenty of space.

Comments and Tom's responses:

Joey, 'I joined a dating service and they told me the odds were good, what they didn't say is 'the goods are odd.' Response: I will write a column on dating services soon. Readers should send me their experiences.

Sue, 'Singles need to be active. Life is too short to die on the couch.' Response: Unless you're in the midst of making love there.

Sex Too Soon?

Lynn, from Georgia, put it right on the line to begin 2006: “Too many women get into sexual relationships with men way too early.”

Married for 34 years and single for five, Lynn said, “I’ve experienced everything from singles dances and gourmet dinner clubs to Internet dating. I’ve had my heart broken at least three times (twice by the same man—fool that I am). With all of my hard-earned experience, I feel I’ve learned something worth sharing with women.

“A common complaint is that men are afraid of commitment and often disappear after one or two good dates. I think the reason men treat us so casually is our own fault. To have sex with a man before you know his character and before he is interested in you as a person is an invitation to heartbreak.”

Lynn adds that men over 50 know they are in the minority; they know there are plenty of women who will have sex with them on the first or second date. “I had one man say to me after turning him down for sex on the third date, ‘You are just being stubborn.’ It was my last date with him.”

What’s the answer? Lynn says, “I believe if we held ourselves in higher esteem and stopped jumping into bed with men based on physical attraction and lust (and sometimes loneliness), we would benefit by being treated with more respect.

“As women, most of us think clearer before sex enters the picture and our emotions get involved. The next time I’m attracted to a man, I’m going to allow plenty of time for us to get to know each other to see if the feelings are mutual and genuine before I take that important step.”

Lynn ended her comments with this critical point, with which I wholeheartedly agree: “A man who is truly looking for a relationship is not going to risk loosing a woman he likes just because she expects him to get to know her before sharing herself completely.”

Some men will protest today’s message. It never fails. “You’re causing alarm and stirring up women unnecessarily,” they'll say, “You’re ruining our fun.”

But I agree with Lynn’s analysis of this having-sex-too-soon scenario. A man who seeks a committed relationship with a quality woman will respect her principles and wait until she is ready, assuming the wait isn’t until “The Twelfth of Never.”

Another big concern about having sex with a stranger: You don’t know his track record. Does he have a STD or HIV? He might not even know. Contacting one of those diseases is simply not worth early sex with a stranger. Oh, I know, there is the condom argument, but they aren’t failsafe.

If a woman doesn’t care about a committed relationship, and just wants a roll in the hay, she should be aware that the guy may bail out after the act. But still there is the risk of contacting something a lot worse than a cold.

Dr. Phil, in his new book, “Love Smart,” writes that women should keep something in reserve—maintain a little mystery in the relationship—when dating a man they care about and sex is one of those things on his list. He says, “Since most sexual partners don’t wind up marrying you, it isn’t even right to call it premarital sex, it is just sex!”

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy sex as much as anyone— maybe more. But if I were dating, and met a woman I wanted as a partner, I'd be willing to wait for her until she was ready. I would, however, have the discussion about it. I’d ask, “It will happen in due time, won’t it?”

If you’re looking for a committed relationship, cool your jets until it becomes committed (note: I did not say marriage). And then have at it.

Reader Comments

Cliffy, 50, Orange County, CA "I am one of the widowed people you wrote about last week. People heal in their own way and time. When you're ready to start dating again, you'll know."

Response from Tom: Any So Cal women want to say hello to Cliffy? Email me and I'll forward your email to him. He's a nice man.

Men Respond To Sex Too Soon?

“I know your audience is primarily women. But don’t pander to them so much,” wrote Gordon from Oregon. “If you want to include men in your advice, include women in your commentary instead of being exclusively one-way.”

Gordon explained. “You wrote ‘Does he have a STD or HIV? He might not even know. Contacting one of those diseases is simply not worth early sex with a stranger.’ I don’t know about you but I’ve had STDs. And I never got them from a man. Please be a little more considerate of men. Especially in something like this where they should be warned about getting an infection from a woman.”

Gordon feels I need to state things in a way that won’t increase the distrust of women and have them blame men, as if men were the sole perpetrators.

John, Washington, D.C., emailed, “I agree with the advice about not rushing into sex with a stranger. Sex based on lust, physical attraction or due to loneliness is not the same as lovemaking with that special someone you have developed a genuine love for.”

Greg, Kalamazoo, MI, sided a bit with Gordon. “I think you should look at this from the guys’ perspective, too. I’ve been out with several women. With over half of them, we had sex on the first or second date. It wasn’t ONLY my idea. I wanted to continue the relationship but all of them dropped out after several more dates.

“I was the one looking for commitment and I wasn’t looking for a roll in the hay. I was the one who ended up with my feelings hurt and wondering what happened. I was once told by a woman in college—after a one-nighter at a fraternity party-- ‘Just because I slept with you didn’t mean I was in love with you, heck, I’m not even sure I like you. It was just sex, get over it.’

It isn’t just the women that put emotions out there and get hurt, it happens to guys, too.”

Verne, New York, “I need substance and a true friend to move into that realm. I’m one of the minority who seeks far more than the hour in the sack.”

Gordon made an excellent point: “Research shows no matter how long a couple waits to have sex for the first time, they still don’t reveal their sexual history or STDs that they’ve had or still have. It’s pretty irrelevant how long you wait to have sex if you don’t talk about your sexual history-to-date.”

Okay, guys, I’ll admit, men aren’t the only problem-creators out there. But I think most of us—men and women alike—agree, you’d better be damned careful having sex with a stranger. Not much positive will come out of it except lust satisfaction.

As far as Gordon’s “pandering to women” comment, I’m not sure I would use that term, but I imagine my treatment of women in this column won’t change much. I think the treatment of the sexes is pretty even over the course of a year.

Reader Comments

Nancy, San Clemente, CA “Sex without commitment? I don’t think so. It’s difficult enough at our age even when there is commitment!”

Comment from Tom: It surprises me when people say, "I'm not renewing my subscription because I've met a man (or woman) and don't need to read it anymore." I have no problem with them not subscribing. In a way, it's a compliment, suggesting the column helped them find someone.

But I think it's foolish for people who are now in a relationship to stop educating and improving themselves and learning about the dynamics of relationships among the older set. It's important to keep a relationship fresh and a little intrigue (Now that we're a couple, why are you still reading that column? Why are you still doing things with friends?) helps do that. You never want your partner to take you for granted, nor you take him for granted.

Plus, what if the relationship doesn't work out and you become single again? Then, you're back to scratching your head, trying to figure out what do do? Regardless of your relationship status, keep learning.

Is It OK For Women To Approach Men? The Four A's

Is it OK for women to approach men? Yes, by using the four “A’s.”

Sheri, Michigan, asked, “Do you think it’s OK for a woman to approach a man she doesn’t know? If so, what should she say to catch his attention?”

Sheri added, “I’m a Catholic school girl, who was taught never to be forthcoming, and I feel starting a conversation would be a turn off to a man. I’m single at 54 (after a long-term marriage), attractive and financially independent, but so shy, I haven’t ventured out yet at all and am at a loss for how to begin. The bar/singles scene is not for me. What do you think?”

If women want to improve their chances of meeting men, they need to implement the four “A’s.”

  • Attitude - Mark Victor Hansen, the co- creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul®” series, says, “Incorporate a positive, joyful attitude and you’ll have positive, joyful people enter your life.” Mark’s right, plus, with a positive attitude, your confidence will soar.
  • Availability - To meet new people, you’ve got to be available. That means, being willing to open your heart and mind to new experiences and to allow new people to enter your previously guarded territory.
  • Approachability - This simply means smile, be warm and friendly. Make it easy and inviting for a man— who might also be shy—to approach you.
  • Assertiveness - For single women, it’s not only OK to approach a man, it’s wise (because it increases your chances of meeting potential mates).

James, 75, single, Laguna Niguel, Calif., stopped in my deli the other day. He said he has no problem meeting women. I asked how it did it. He says he meets women at Gelson’s Market, an upscale market in Dana Point (the city where my deli is located); at the local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings; and, while walking in our harbor. “Just walk up and start a conversation, it’s that simple” said James.

When opportunity knocks, women should take advantage of it by being assertive. Notice I’m not using the term aggressive. Don’t toss away your ladylike qualities and become a piranha. Don’t be pushy. Just become a bit more assertive in situations that warrant it by saying, “It’s a cold day. Would you like to join me for a cup of coffee?” That’s all you have to say. (When you ask a man out for coffee, the treat’s on you.)

Chances are, he may not be able to join you right then and there. But be ready for what he might say.

If he says he’s married or in a relationship, don’t be embarrassed, just smile and say, “Well, she’s a lucky woman.”

If he says, “I can’t now, but maybe later,” you need to be prepared.

A single woman should carry a name card, which she can hand to a man--so that he has a way of contacting her. These cards are like business cards, but should limit personal information on the card, so a stranger can’t trace where she lives or works. Listing a first name only and the telephone number of an answering service that screens calls for you accomplishes this.

Keep in mind the four “A” words: Attitude, availability, approachability, and assertiveness. Implement them and watch your circle of men friends grow.

Unusual Places To Meet

Older singles need to be alert for dating opportunities that present themselves in places they’d never expect. That stranger on the phone, the guy standing in line near you, or the gentleman emailing about a business matter could be potential partners. Today, three singles reveal how they found love in unusual places.

When widower Rodney, 61, took his dogs to the veterinarian, he told the vet, “Keep your eye out for a woman who might enjoy a rich, fat, retired fireman.”

A few days earlier, Anna, a divorced paramedic/firefighter, had brought her two dogs to the vet and told him she wanted to meet somebody. The vet introduced them and they became a couple.

Rodney mentioned that he and Anna have many things in common. They want to be together but don’t want to marry; they share a good overall partnership and have set several goals. “We both established living trusts, naming each other as trust assignors.”

Singles should network with people who have contact with lots of others on a daily basis, such as veterinarians, dentists and doctors.

In another case, Dick and his wife of 48 years had gone to the same hairstylist for ten years. A year after Dick’s wife passed away, the stylist told Dick he should meet Sharon, whose hair she’d also been cutting for ten years. Dick’s wife and Sharon had never met.

“I dated and fell in love with Sharon. We’ve been married four years,” said Dick. “After awhile, your stylist knows a lot about you. In my case, she did a great job of matchmaking; she knew both ladies and me fairly well, and correctly believed that Sharon and I would be compatible.”

After Jackie was widowed in 1999 at age 62, she created a slogan, “I will never marry again - until pigs fly.” Her friends and co-workers often teased her about her slogan. Jackie met Mike over the Internet, but not via the usual matching site. She’s a loan officer. When she received a sales lead over the Internet from Mike, she telephoned him with a loan quote.

“In the course of the call, Mike told me his wife was dying from pancreatic cancer. My mom had died from the same disease so I could commiserate,” said Jackie.

Three months after his wife died, Mike sent an e-mail to Jackie, asking if they could meet casually. They started to date.

“We had our moments—a couple of ‘Dear John’ emails—when Mike started feeling guilty about falling in love so soon after his wife’s passing. I cut your newspaper articles out and mailed them to him, about how long someone should grieve—there is no set time—it varies.”

Eventually, Jackie and Mike worked through their issues, continued to date, and fell in love. They married last year, but Jackie’s friends won’t let her forget her “until pigs fly” slogan. “You should see the collection of flying pigs in our office,” she added.

Singles should keep their eyes and ears open. Who knows? That paramedic, loan officer or guy sitting at the next stylist station might become the love you long for.

Taking a picture of your boyfriend

I've written columns about mid-life and senior dating for nearly 13 years. The stories keep getting better and better. When you think you've heard them all, a new one pops up. Thanks to Jackie--not her real name--for sharing today's.

Digital cameras are incredible toys. Couples use them to record their memories. Sometimes they are photographed together, sometimes individually. Jackie's boyfriend asked her to take photos of him on his camera.

A month later, Jackie looked on the Internet dating site where she originally met him and saw her boyfriend’s profile and picture posted. What really got her goat is the photo is one she snapped the month before. They broke up.

They missed each other, so two months later, they reunited and agreed to a monogamous relationship. They even took an HIV test.

Eight weeks later, Jackie checked out a different Internet site (one owned by a friend of her boyfriend's), only to find “a new picture that I took of him on his patio and new personal info in an ad.”

Jackie said: “Talk about a slap in the face. To have this done twice with pictures that I took was like betrayal, using me to further his search for women. How can one man be so cold and still tell me that I was the only one in the last five years who restored his sex life back to him?”

So what did Jackie do? “I lost it, called him and blew up. I asked him if I had STUPID written on my forehead. He said he was guilty, but blamed me for looking. Three days passed and we talked. He said he was sorry for upsetting me.” (They patched things up again, until the day of their one-year anniversary.)

On anniversary day, he told Jackie that his ex wife was scheduled for surgery on her heart and would be staying with him “for awhile,” since she had no one to take care of her. So, the anniversary-day celebration wasn’t exactly a high point of their year together.

Jackie asked for my opinion: “Would you classify this as a lost cause? He had a meltdown two years ago from stress and left his job. He doesn’t handle situations very well. Was I just handy and he hoped for a better deal down the road? I deserve to be treated better than this.”

Yes Jackie deserves to be treated better, but she doesn’t need my opinion. She’s had him figured out all along. When a guy acts as she describes, it brings to mind that popular book, “He’s Just Not That Into You” by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo.

While the crowning blow was having his ex move back in with him, there is another lesson we can learn from Jackie’s story. If your boyfriend asks you to take photos of him using his camera, do your best to make the photos as bad as possible. You certainly don’t want to be a party to his furthering search for other women to continue his sex-life "restoration" project.

Burning Bridges

Shirlee is lucky. She burned a bridge to a man she’d been communicating with for years and yet her path still led her to him.

Three and a half years ago, while living in Memphis, Shirlee joined an Internet dating site. Within a week, she received an IM: “Hello, this is Fred in Los Angeles, and how are you today?” She responded and they emailed for a month, after which she felt comfortable enough to give Fred her phone number.

“We began communicating four times a week by phone, with conversations lasting for two hours sometimes. We enjoyed talking and found each other interesting. He was a real estate broker and I was a mortgage banker so we had a lot in common,” said Shirlee.

He wanted her to visit him in CA but Shirlee said it was shortly after 9-11, that she didn’t want to be on a plane that long, and, she feared rejection. Telephone calls continued—four to five times a week.

In February, 2004, Shirlee’s life changed. Her company closed the Memphis office. She moved to Nashville hoping to find a similar job. None materialized. She moved in with her son and accepted a retail job at one-third of her former pay. She was embarrassed and upset; she didn’t tell Fred what happened and left no forwarding information. She had burned her bridge to him.

Shirlee said, “I missed talking to him. Last December, I called and found he had moved to Tampa and had left a forwarding number.” She called and they resumed telephone conversations. “It took me until May to tell him of my situation. I said if he didn’t want to talk to me anymore I would understand.”

Fred replied: “Honey, I can help you. Don’t you think it’s time? Let’s get together and if we don’t say ‘Uck,’ maybe we have something here.” Fred flew to Nashville.

Shirlee said, “To both of our delight, we were meant for each other. He didn’t say ‘Uck’ and I didn’t say ‘Uck’ and we met my grown sons and he told them, ‘I’m going to take your Mother back to Tampa,’ and my sons agreed.”

Shirlee, 59, moved to Tampa in October to be with Fred, 63. Their friends were surprised. Both had kept each other a secret. “We are happy, happy, happy,” she says. “It took a long time, but finally, we are home together.”

Shirlee is lucky that Fred is in her life. Had he not left a forwarding number, chances are they never would have found each other. She might still be alone, mired in retail in Nashville, instead of being in a loving relationship in Tampa.

Keep your options (and bridges) open.

The Magnificent Six

As a columnist writing about love after 50, I correspond with many people who are widowed. Some have been widowed for years, others for less than five. Today, six of those recently widowed—I call them The Magnificent Six—give other widowed people and others going through adversity hope for the coming year. Half of the six are friends; half I’ve not met. I admire how they are bravely rebuilding their lives.

Jerry, 70, Tampa, FL., a former ship captain, says he now realizes he was left on earth for a purpose. A year after his loss, he met a woman who held his hand and led him out of the fog. They travel together; this past summer they spent a month in London. Jerry’s positive attitude has helped him immensely.

Danielle, San Clemente, CA early 50s, has found the Internet helpful for meeting men. Yes, she’s met several who weren’t what she’s looking for. But now, she’s met a man with whom she has much in common. They’re dating exclusively and proceeding slowly. She’s a personal friend; it’s nice to see her smile again.

Dave, 70, Michigan, is aiding his healing by writing a book titled, The Sands Of Time. A Widower’s Journey To Healing.

“To reach to touch you and you’re not there, is almost more then I can bear” are words from the title poem in Dave’s book. I can feel his healing progress as I read through the book. When Dave’s book is published, I shall make it available on my website (www.findingloveafter50.com).

Laurie-Ann, Laguna Niguel, CA said, “My husband’s death knocked the very breath out of my heart and soul.” She was 49 when he passed. Two years ago, Laurie-Ann came into my Dana Point deli to meet me. She was also writing a book about her recovery.

Last week, she returned to my deli and presented me with her book, The After Journey. Getting Through The First Year (www.laurieannweis.com). Her book will be a big help to newly widowed men and women alike. Laurie-Ann’s book is also being listed on my website.

Cliffy, 50, Buena Park, CA is a close friend of mine. We share a love for sports, particularly rotisserie-league fantasy football and basketball. He’s the salt of the earth. A year ago, he lost his wife of a year and a half. It’s been a brutal time for him, but he realizes life for him is meant to be shared. His wife insisted he do that. He’s starting to enjoy the company of women.

Rick, 70, Modesto, CA wrote two years ago: “After ten months, I still spend Saturdays on a bench at the cemetery and can’t stop crying.” His daughter Donna, a friend of mine, was worried about him. This week I was pleased when Donna reported that Rick is doing well. He’s getting out and socializing. She feels he’s made it through the tough time.

There is a consensus among The Magnificent Six that formulas for healing don’t work. Each person heals at their own speed and deals with his or her loss differently. But they’re all healing and that’s encouraging. By sharing their stories, each is helping others who now find themselves on a similar arduous journey.

May the New Year bring strength and fulfillment to all.

Reader Comments

One of our subscribers--age 50-plus--works at the University of Notre Dame, home of the Fighting Irish. She and a woman friend were having a drink at a bar in South Bend recently. The two women started talking to two men who turned out to be Holy Cross priests and Navy chaplains.

As a joke, our friend said she might elope to Iceland. One of the priests said, "If you do that, I'll marry you. We'll just stay in Iceland and honeymoon."

Lesson of the story: You never know where or with whom you might find love after 50. Keep your radar on and your options open.

Not sure if she and the priest are in Reykjavik over New Year's--probably not--the Irish play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl in football, but it makes a cute New Year's story.

Numbers Game

Why finding love is a numbers game and why we have to play it

Singles write everyday that they can’t meet anybody worthwhile, that they’re discouraged about dating and some say they have even given up. I know the pursuit of love can be disheartening, but if finding love is what you want, don’t stop trying.

To be successful, you have to be either lucky, or, you have to play the numbers game.

Gary, Fountain Valley, CA., said, “One woman I met lied about her age by 15 years. Another scared me, when, after one date, it looked like she might be a stalker. Others were flakes who couldn’t be depended upon to do what they said they would. And yet others wanted to be ‘just friends’ or laid the old line on me, ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’"

Gary added, “I got married last month to a terrific gal I met online.” For Gary, playing the numbers game was worth it, but he admits there were times when he was ready to quit playing.

Joan lives 25 miles outside of New York City. “Older men want younger women. It’s particularly bad here in the northeast New York tri-state area. This is a very affluent area and men think that having money means they are more appealing to younger women. It’s a complex situation and I don’t see it changing.”

Joan sent a picture, she’s an attractive woman, and she’s a successful woman. She, like all of us, deserves happiness. But to find it, she needs to play the numbers game, to find a man who appreciates her qualities. To do that, she must extend her reach to men in other areas--via the Internet or travel or getting involved in activities. It seems unfair, and like too much work, but that’s what she needs to do.

Wilma, living in Georgia, writes, “I can’t tell you how many men have contacted me, all ready to go to meet and build a relationship, but who never take the time. It isn’t a priority for most men. They have their work, buddies, families, hobbies and women are supposed to wait and wait, until the men find the time.

“This doesn’t work for me,” says Wilma. “Either you want to have a relationship or you don’t.” Wilma is right. So she needs to continue to play the numbers game until a quality man who sincerely wants a relationship enters her life. Until then, forget those non-committal men.

Shirley, 76, had given up on love. In April, she received a “wink” from a man on her Internet matching site. “We e-mailed back and forth for a short period of time before setting a date to meet at a local restaurant. We felt an immediate attraction and began seeing one another as often as possible. We were married October 12th." Her husband is 81.

“Neither of us thought we could be so lucky to find a perfect mate at these ages,” said Shirley. “So, don’t give up hope.”

Note from Tom: Yes Shirley was lucky. But, luck is the opportunity of preparation and the fact that she and her hubby were willing to try, to play the numbers game, is why it happened. If either hadn’t have been on the Internet trying, they’d still be alone.

Lisa, 52, Detroit area, had given up hope. A woman friend and neighbor of hers passed away in July, 2004. Six weeks later, she started dating her friend’s 47-year-old widower. She helped him get through the healing stage.

“We are still going strong, and got engaged October 1st. One friend says John and I ‘twinkle’ when together." Lisa’s point: you never know from where love may come.

So, there you have it. Even though it’s hard, don’t stop playing the numbers game. It’s the hand we as middle aged singles were dealt. By not giving up, you keep hope alive and vastly improve your chances of meeting a compatible mate. Remember, it only takes one—it could number 21, number 31 or number 81. But, it’s worth the effort.

© 2006, Tom Blake

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